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Friday, 31 December 2010

Tap-dancing round the truth: is Cameron as good as the Bliar?

I see Mr. Cameron has told us we have some "heavy lifting" to do to tackle the dreadful deficit.

This reminds me of the old joke about the Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian side-kick, Tonto.

They were surrounded by what the military now call in their dire jargon “hostiles”.

“Sioux ahead of us,” yelped the Lone Ranger. “Apache to the left. Comanche to the right. Seminole at the back of us. What shall we do?”

“What’s all this ‘we’ shit, white man?” came the reply.

The “we” that politicians deploy with such fine abandon means of course
us – not them. We will be doing all the lifting, and it will be that much heavier because he has done far, far too little tackling.

After all the huffing and puffing, the deficit is actually scheduled to
grow by, I believe, £650 billion in the next four years.

I did say repeatedly last year that Cameron could well be in the Bliar’s league when it comes to tap-dancing round the truth.

That's a pretty good start.

Could even the Flatulent Toad Brown have come up with something which so totally ignores the simple facts - which are that he hasn't started the job. If you're going to sweep away all the people sucking at the public tit, get a big brush and sweep mightily. Don't just push little piles of parasites from one spot to another.

Anyhow, if he fails to screw things up, don’t worry. The Unions are busy planning to make everyone’s life a misery in the spring, just to coincide with the royal wedding.

They are complaining about the cuts. The ones that haven't happened. And they want us to keep coughing up. From what? From an even bigger deficit.

Our world is divided into two types of people. Those who make the money. And those who piss it away. The politicians and the union leaders have one thing in common. They are pissers, not earners.

Happy New Year.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Typical landing page rubbish: 231 words, one misprint and not a bloody clue

You really have to wonder how some people survive.

I just read the landing page (wrong layout, no human being) of the utterly useless website of an agency run by someone I know who, amazingly, managed to do very well for quite a while.

That, however, was in corporate noddy-land where you can get away with all kinds of silliness.

In the real world his copy is the highroad to failure.

Yet what is sad is he probably laboured over it - or even sadder, paid someone else as clueless as he is.

But never for a second did he ask himself,"Should this be about me - or about what's in it for my clients?"

It has 231 words, 14 of which are “we”, “us” or “our” with exactly one “you” - but of course the obligatory “innovative business solutions”.

What a pool of puke.

People who run this kind of stuff should be required to go and stand in the middle of Trafalgar Square and read it out loud through a loudhailer, because they won’t have much else to do in a hazardous 2011.

I shall be doing my best to steer people away from folly in the months ahead.

Meanwhile ...

Merry Christmas and don’t do you dare do that kind of shit in the New Year.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A bit more about phoney art

Jean Cocteau said something very apposite about this around 75 years ago.

He was talking about writing, but I believe it applies to all kinds of art: "You do not write with ideas. You write with words."

It is not enough to have a "concept" - which is just jargon for idea, used to impress the gullible. You must have the craft to make it work.

Take objets trouves.

Finding something in the street or on the beach and then displaying it is not art. It is good (or bad) taste and a piece of luck. Tracey Emin's dirty knickers are not art. They are the detritus of an imaginative slut.

Ah! The joys of religion .. Why not give these enthusiasts what they crave?

Christmas is a good time to think about what we believe in.

It's about 700 years since our lot went charging over to save Jerusalem from the Muslims, but the basic concept hasn't changed much - just the cast of characters.

A crew of loonies of Bangladeshi origin has been arrested for planning to slaughter a lot of people in the name of Allah.

And the lovely Afshan Azad who played Padma Patil (a Hindu-sounding name if ever there was one) in Harry Potter was beaten, called a slag and prostitute and threatened with death by her loving family after she met a young man who was not a Muslim.

She was too frightened to come to Manchester Crown Court for the trial of her father and brother who pretty much got away with it as a result.

People who feel that strongly about the joys of paradise should be sent to their spiritual homes, in this case I guess Bangladesh and Pakistan. Sudan sounds like fun, though - they have a permanent policy of slaughtering Christians, flogging women who wear trousers and so on.

Or maybe we could have a reciprocal arrangement whereby those who believe can experience the joys of Sharia - perhaps with Saudi Arabia, which is where most of the money to finance terror comes from.

Instead of being bound over the keep the peace in the silly old English way they could experience the bliss of something appropriately medieval that respects their beliefs.

Stoning to death? Public beheading? A hand or two amputated? A few hundred lashes in front of Manchester Town Hall? No doubt some of the preachers living here who egg these people on know the appropriate treatment.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

When it absolutely, positively has to be there don't call DHL - Oh, and is Italy in Europe?

I wouldn't say I hate Christmas, but I do hate the way it has turned into a giant retail romp.

Talking of which, my beloved, who (unlike me) loves buying presents, found a lovely winter coat for her sister at the Banana Republic and paid extra for it to be delivered quickly to our office by DHL before she whizzes off to Puglia.

Being alarmingly well-organised (excellent worrier) she monitored the progress of the coat, which in the event did not arrive. A phone call to DHL resulted in a 23 minute wait and a lot of lies. The coat had gone back to Banana Republic because it was "undeliverable".

This was bollocks. We have deliveries from DHL almost every day. We have even become quite matey with the guy who brings them.

So she rang Banana Republic in the U.S.

What a contrast! The girl at the other end thought up a solution: express delivery to Bari in Puglia. No charge. An extra 15% discount for the inconvenience (the coat was discounted already).

Superb. Only slightly marred by a question at the end: "Is Italy in Europe?"

The girl deserves a raise in salary plus free geography lessons.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Well, I just got rebuked! Nevertheless ... but let's see what you think

Here's a message I got from a reader, Victor Lamont, two days ago. At the end I will comment.

"Dear Mr Bird, I have just returned from Cancun. It is the second climate conference I have attended. I went (contributing to my expenses) – I did have a contribution from my congregation here in Chiangmai. I did not stay in a Hotel – like very many participants I was housed in a Mexican family who offered their kindness and hospitality.

I never got drunk and throughout the event I never saw anybody drunk. All told I learnt a great deal from fellow participants and I hope contributed some useful ideas. This really is the main role of such a conference. I work on the border of Burma and Thailand. I work with the United Nations Drug Abatement programme. We have been able to dramatically reduce the production of opium.

I realise this is a small project and you would have something sarcastic to write about it. But, the project has contributed to less high grade heroin arriving in the UK. None of my colleagues are lazy, wasteful or attend pointless jamborees. I work with many who have rejected high salaries to try and make a small contribution to our world. Before coming to Thailand I worked in Africa for 15 years – I was responsible for job creation.

I also attended a number of World Trade Jamborees – there are now very few tariffs on the products coming out of East/Central Africa – when I first arrived the WTC there where very many. Almost anything is now allowed into the EU – the major issue is between developing countries who stifle each other’s merchandise. Africa, South America are amongst the worst countries in this respect.

But enough from me, I am about to go to our project HQ it takes me five hours by bus. We don’t have expensive transport. Mr Bird your message has disappointed me. Having read you for some years I would have expected better. Now I fear you imagine most of your material and stories. Our world is so broken, it really is not intelligent to add to it without very positive alternatives."

What do I have to say in response to that?

I think there are many, many people like Victor trying hard to do good. There are also a great many people who are not in the least like Victor - and there are goodness knows how many reports about them - who live pretty high on the hog working for NGOs.

And having been more than once to Chiang Mai and further up to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle where many of the drugs originate, besides spending a lot of time on the streets of over 60 of the world's great cities, I have formed other strong beliefs.

No matter what Victor or others like him do, as long as people in rich countries want to do drugs, they will be available. Stopping them will about as easy as ending drinking alcohol or prostitution. And since we are talking g about Cancun I see the number of murders attributed to the drugs trade in Mexico alone has just topped 30,000.

Having lived with a former drug addict I tend to agree with what she told me in 1964: that criminalising them (which took place in the U.K. shortly after that) brings in criminals, as was the case with Prohibition in the U.S. The only results I recall from that little experiment were to further strengthen the Mafia and make
Joseph Kennedy enough money to buy a few critical votes in Chicago for his son.

As far as I am aware Cancun event was about combatting climate change. I never believed that Al Gore whizzing around on a private jet did much to help. I wonder whether thousands of people - well-intentioned or otherwise - flying to exchange ideas in the Blackpool of Mexico will help much. Besides being a colossal waste of precious energy is it really the best way to get things done? Now that the internet is with us wouldn't doing it all online be cheaper and more sensible? You can exchange ideas quite easily that way; I do it all the time with thousands of people I have never met

In short, I tend to agree with the observations today in
The Guardian - to say the least of it hardly a right-wing rag - headed, "The arrogance of Cancun".

These read in part "The high level talks at Cancun were our last chance (to protect the planet) and they failed" and pointed out that these get-togethers have been going on at colossal expense for 18 years.

So far they have achieved little more than pious statements by politicians looking for photo-ops - and they are an insult to you and your kind, Victor.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Call this modern art, you limp dicks? You're years behind the times

The Tate Modern is decades behind the times, dithering weakly as they skirt the shores of true modernity. It is time they dived in.

My dismay is provoked by learning that the top prize - The Turner - at the Tate's latest annual exercise in the ludicrous is some sounds played in an empty room by Susan Philipsz. (Lurv the "z", Sue. So creative.)

This is conceptual art, invented as far as I can see by Marcel Duchamp who stuck - allegedly as a joke - the urinal illustrated as "ready-made art" in an exhibition back in 1917 just to show you could find anything you like, sign it and claim it was art, and idiots would agree.

Sure enough an idiot critic called Tomkins said "It does not take much stretching of the imagination to see in the upside-down urinal's gently flowing curves the veiled head of a classic Renaissance Madonna or a seated Buddha".

The original urinal has been lost - what a tragedy - but a number of replicas have been "created." A couple of years back two Chinese artists entered into the spirit of the concept by trying to piss all over one of them on the entirely reasonable grounds that it constituted "an invitation."

I'm sorry, but the room with sounds bespeaks a lamentable lack of imagination. Last week, 40 musicians with fuck all to do went to a London studio and did not play their instruments in a performance of John Cage’s famous silent composition, "4’33’’" - which he came up with in 1952. (How sad that "troubled" - i.e. witless - Babyshambles "star" Pete Doherty didn't turn up.)

It is high time The Tate Modern got minimal, emptied their galley and had a show of nothing. You can be sure some pretentious twat would acclaim it as a great exhibition. I would be happy to be paid a few grand to "curate" it. My brilliant new career beckons.

By the way, the best and funniest writing on this subject is an essay by Tom Wolfe called "The Painted Word".

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Will anyone ever do anything to stop these obscene, wasteful, pointless jamborees

What they say versus what happens:

"Delegates from 190 nations reach a deal to curb climate change, including a fund to help developing countries, at UN talks in Cancun."

What happened: hordes of hypocritical parasites who don't pay income tax (and media drones) wasted an incalculable amount of our money flying to a vulgar holiday resort, being driven to fancy hotels and then talking shit of little or no consequence to each other.

With the help of a willing local hospitality industry many good meals were enjoyed, a fair number of people got drunk, quite a few laid, and some caught interesting social diseases. The usual pious resolution was passed after a series of interminably dull meetings.

Many photos were taken nowhere near the beach; some stultifying dull statements were made for the benefit of the cameras. When shown for a few seconds at the end of the news on TV they were universally ignored by educated people, who know this is all just a sick charade, and poor people who are busy struggling to get by and would (wisely) prefer to watch game shows which at least have winners and losers.

What will happen: The likely rate of climate change will have been increased. Hardly any of the promised money will appear. That which does will almost all be stolen by crooks in Africa, South America, Asia and so on. Nothing that matters will be done.

What should happen. They should just reissue any of the last few resolutions from these events with the names changed. Or ask these people to hold their next jolly at their personal expanse in a Sao Paulo Favela, the outskirts of Lima, a rubbish heap in Jakarta or anywhere ordinary people live in almost any big city in Africa.

And while we're about it the tariffs which prevent poor countries from exporting their produce and encourage rich countries to waste theirs should be dismantled.

While we're on the subject of bullshit, I saw Clinton on TV last night. He's been drafted to try and sell the latest deal to help the rich get richer here. You've got to hand it to him. He really has got the gift of the gab.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Could the people at Talk-Talk, BT, Sky, Ofcom and so on find their own arseholes without a flashlight? Or what happens if you're not Lord Sugar

If you go here you can see how hard it is to get the Telewankers to act even if you're famous. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/showbiz/article-23904769-the-day-lord-sugar-wanted-to-say-youre-fired-to-bt-call-centre-staff.do.

The mighty Sugar got things fixed in a day - but he only had to deal with one set of buffoons. Carol who works with me has been fucked around by a whole flotilla of them - so far, with more to come. Here's her story.

"I contacted TalkTalk on Tuesday 23rd November to report my phone out of order. I told them I could not receive incoming calls but could still make calls. My landline was not showing my correct phone number.

Later that day I received a text from TT to say that “initial testing has been inconclusive. We are now carrying out further testing. We will keep you informed.”

And a further text, “Our initial investigation discovered a fault on your line and we will confirm this status within 1 hour.” And another text, “Following further investigation on your fault. Please reply FIXED or NOT FIXED, to which my reply was ‘not fixed’.

The next day I called the technical support team again and I was told that it appeared there was an ‘unsolicited cease order’ on my line as someone at my address had requested to be moved to another provider.

I replied that I had made no such request. I asked if it was possible that the first floor flat, who have the same address, had, as new tenants had recently moved in, and I was told it was unlikely as they would have a different line.

I called again on Thursday 25th November and was told the problem was a crossed line which could take up to 5 days to resolve and if I had not heard anything by Monday 29th, I should call again.

Then I received a further text saying a problem could not be found etc. I called yet again on the Monday. They were still investigating the problem - and again on Tuesday 30th I was told by a second line technical support person that my line had been disconnected as someone at my address had requested to move to another provider.

I contacted BT who told me it would probably be TT or Sky who had done this.

As I was, or had been, with TT, Sky appeared to be the culprits, so I contacted Sky who confirmed that this 0203 number was theirs.

I spent most of Tuesday phoning TT customer services and sales department without being able to speak to anyone in authority (ALL of their managers were in a meeting) trying to explain that Sky had taken over my line without my consent (I had been "slammed") only to be told more than once that I am a NEW CUSTOMER and would have to pay a reconnection charge of £79.99.

I contacted Sky again who confirmed that they had wrongly transferred my line but they could not connect me back up and TT were the only ones who could. These calls went on and I could get nowhere apart from Sky saying if I invoice them for the costs involved in getting a line back they would look at it.

On Friday 3rd December I spoke to Ofcom who advised me to log complaints against both TT and Sky and get connected with another provider.

I rang BT and told them the situation. They first said they would place the order for a line connection but when they ran a check on my property they told me that the line at this address was owned by Sky and they could do nothing for me.

I contacted TT again who told me I had been slammed and agreed to waive the reconnection charge but it would be 6 – 10 days for the line to be connected.

Later that day I received a text from TT saying “we are working hard to get you set up”. At 6.30pm a further text was sent announcing that “an engineer needs to visit your home to activate your TalkTalk phone and broadband service on 29.12.2010 between 08.00 – 13.00.<

I complained to TalkTalk yet again about the length of time involved in getting my line back and that they were treating me like a new customer only to be told that there was nothing they could do to bring the date forward.

They did agree to pay £20 for an O2 dongle (but I had to pay a further £15 for the credit which they didn’t mention).

This was a complete non starter. O2 were contacted about the lack of a connection and advised me that this was due to adverse weather conditions and engineers were working on the problem.

I have now bought a dongle from TMobile for £40 (all in) and this is providing an excellent connection – funny that because the weather is pretty much the same.

By the time I get connected again, I will have been without a line for almost 6 weeks and when I do get connected it will be with a completely different phone number as Sky threw mine away when they stole the line - deliberately or otherwise."

Sunday, 5 December 2010

How NOT to sell carpets - plus advice from a great writer

The carpets in our flat which were there when we arrived are beginning to look as tired as I feel after a night on the booze, so the great search has begun.

At one point it looked like it might end at a shop in Holloway, which seemed to have more or less what we wanted. However a stupid, gabby salesman lost his chances by making a couple of stupid mistakes.

She Who Does All Her Research In Advance asked a series of pertinent questions about price and what they had in stock, whilst He Who Has Cloth Ears And Not A Clue resolutely avoided answering them.

When she asked about what they had in stock rather than answer he kept on suggesting she come and have a look - "Just pop round to the shop".

Now why do you suppose she rang? As she pointed out with only slight exaggeration "I can fly to Italy from here in less time than it takes to go to Holloway." And let's face it if you had to list the spots in London you least want to go to on a whim Holloway, chiefly famous for its prison, is almost up there with New Cross and Peckham.

His problem was that he wanted to sell hardwood flooring, which is not what we wanted to buy, which was carpets, as anyone without cloth ears would have gathered. The conversation pretty much ended when he said "You don't want to have carpets in Chelsea." What an idiot.

My old partner Glenmore used to quote a piece of advice his father gave him, which applied in this case; "If you're talking, you're not listening, and if you're not listening you're not learning."

A few months ago I went to considerable trouble, at their request, to interview a guy who won an Ogilvy contest to find the world's greatest salesman. They did a video of the whole thing, which I have yet to see. Maybe they're too busy having meetings.

Meanwhile I hope to interview another man who sells one of the most difficult things you can sell- and won a contest for his firm's best sales performance nine years running. I understand his son is following in his footsteps, so I guess he must be a good teacher.

I'll keep you posted.


Someone the other day asked me what I read, and I gave a list. The writer I consider the best of his kind is Elmore Leonard, all of whose books I have devoured. They've tried to film them - Foxy Brown and Get Shorty are good examples - but nothing quite catches the laconic brilliance of the originals.

He began as a copywriter, and I found a list of his ten rules for writing the other day. For years I have been telling people to read their copy out loud - and make sure it sounds like someone talking.

So I was thrilled to read this:

"My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

All the half-wits who write corporate tripe should be dragged out of bed at 3 a. m. every morning and have that boomed out to them over powerful megaphones.

P. S. I don't know why the wretched machine that sticks this up keeps changing the size of type or the typeface. Sorry. I would like it to be Georgia, a handsome serif face, in normal size, which is what I keep stipulating to no effect.

Friday, 3 December 2010

About all those free drinks I mentioned ... and the secret life of Adam Hargreaves

Let me ask you: do you love the English countryside? The winter landscape on the right for example.

Do you, like me, prefer it to what I saw in the Saatchi Gallery last year - a pile of old clothes masquerading as art?

I love it. It's painted by someone I've never met - but was surprised to discover. His name is Adam Hargreaves.

The reason I was surprised to discover him is that he is famous for something that could hardly be more different than this painting. He is the author and illustrator of the Mr Men and Little Miss series of children's books (he is the son of their creator). But as you see, he's an extremely talented painter of landscapes like this.

It is his secret side.

The reference I made yesterday to free drinks in ever-so-fashionable Notting Hill was really about his second one man show in London, at the West Eleven Gallery, just off Portobello Road.

He had a show last year in Covent Garden which sold out. The picture I show gives you an idea of his work. Calm, even subdued celebrations of nature’s small corners and grand moments. Nothing pretentious, but immensely appealing.

It's almost impossible to write about art without sounding utterly phoney, so I'd better stop now before I start writing rubbish. However, much of the fashionable stuff nowadays has something serious missing. It is called competence. All you need is an idea - "let's put a pile of chicken shit in a fridge and say it represents the consumer society" - and that's it, job done.

Having ideas is not hard. A friend and I used to play a game called "Let's have 20 ideas for businesses over lunch" - and nothing is easier. The trouble comes when you have to carry them out. This is the bit a lot of modern art doesn't bother with. It's "conceptual" art - just have the idea, no skill needed to execute.

Enough from me. If you like stuff that does call for skill and sensitivity, you can see Adam's new paintings next week.

WHERE: The West Eleven Gallery in Notting Hill -
5 Blenheim Crescent London W11 2EE
WHEN: from 7th to 11th December.
Private View: 5 - 9PM Tuesday 7 December

Further viewing at 10am to 6pm, 7 - 11 December
 with a late night opening on Thursday 9 December till 9pm

You can find out more at www.adamhargreavespaintings.com or from TheOneWeekArtShow on 01892 852394 or email kay@theoneweekartshow.com.

And just in case any nasty suspicions crept into your mind, no, I have no interest in this, financial or otherwise. I just like his work. And somehow countryside scenes are so right at this time of the year.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The toughest copy job, assorted follies - and two offers: one bound to interest you

I don't know if familiarity breeds contempt, but when it comes to writing I find it breeds inertia. It's that same old, same old feeling.

I am usually pretty quick when it comes to pouring out the purple prose. But for four weeks I have been lugubriously striving to come up with an ad for a client whose business I know extremely well. Nothing had emerged from the swamplands of my mind so yesterday, in desperation, I called the most talented person I know. He happens to be an art director who knows lots of words and usually has good ideas.

I think my subconscious must have felt insulted by this abject capitulation, because this morning I woke up with a reasonable idea. I can't say your subconscious will always come to the rescue at the last minute, but mine usually will if I feed it with enough scraps - then leave it alone to stew for a few days.

In this case, I just went back to first principles. What is the real reason people buy this? What problem does it solve? Do I know someone who has tried it and liked it? And bingo, out popped something from the oven of desperation.

My friend Steve Harrison who always gets top marks at EADIM believes that all good advertising is just problem solution, and demonstrates it very entertainingly. You can see a bit of him half way down the excruciatingly long, long thin page directmarketingcourse.com.

As someone pointed out to me the other day this still features our last course, but we're planning next year, so if you want to save £701 and pay on easy terms, let me know. End of commercial.

The paper this morning has more than the usual amount of rubbish, starting with a picture of Cameron, Beckham and Prince William, described as Three Lions. If I ate breakfast I would have thrown up. They were pretending to be talking about the bid for the World Cup, though as we all know, it was just a photo-opportunity. Cameron would turn up for the opening of an envelope, Beckham is , I suspect, genuinely concerned, and William is being pushed into the limelight. (I liked the way he said his father should be given a go. Quite right. We survived George IV. What harm can Charles III possibly do?)

Re the soccer, what amazes me is that our lot seem to be spending their time cosying up to the people who have been taking bung to fix the results. Should Cameron concentrate on the country rather than this? Maybe it's better to keep him out of the way where he can't do any harm.

The best line so far in this whole thing was some Russian thug masquerading as a prime minister saying the event shouldn't come here because of the drunkenness. Sheer magic from someone whose country has the world's worst alcohol problem.

But this was impeccable logic compared with the howl yesterday from "outspoken" Republican Senator Mike Huckabee suggesting that Wikileaks' Julian Assange be executed for treason. Er, hello, you great thicko, the guy is Australian. Is the word "outspoken" code for totally ignorant?

On the Wikileaks, a wise man said that the task of the journalist is to reveal things those in power want kept secret. Is there any sane person who doesn't know what these leaks have confirmed - that the world is run by people you wouldn't trust for minute in private life?


Richard and Gary who have been sharing our squalid basement offices are leaving, so we have room for two or three more. The location is good, north of Soho. Chloe and Carol are nice - and I'm OK if you can stand foul language after lunch. Anyhow, I travel a fair bit.

If you have anything to do with the creative side of marketing it may suit you. I think it's £600 a month for a desk plus all the bad jokes you can stand. Write to me, Drayton@draytonbird.com.


I said I had one offer that is bound to interest you, and here's why. It involves free drinks, Christmas presents, a corner of Notting Hill - and something you may well remember fondly from your childhood. More tomorrow.