Archive for the ‘Cynicism’ Category


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

There is an exhibition on at the Old Truman Brewery at the moment called GazeAndBody. What’s it about, I wondered, as I picked up the leaflet. Well:

“The work commissioned by Rotoreliefs in Vibe Bar is focused on discourse and is materialised in videos and performances (Gaze & Body) which are interconnected by the concept and the translation of visual images into words.”

Now, I’ve done a degree in social sciences. I know what discourses and concepts are, but this is baffling. Is it meant to mean something, or is it a hoax to gull card-carrying PoMos into looking pensive while watching porn?

Poll pot

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Not everyone in PR is stupid, in the same way that not all journalists are lazy and not all estate agents would crap in a cup and attempt to pass it off as chocolate mousse. But occasionally there are examples of stupidity in PR so rank that I’m prepared to just accept the stereotype as fact.

A certain employee of Results PR, for instance, conformed to type when he sent out a press release on behalf of an online discount voucher company. The company had conducted a survey and discovered that nine out of ten online shoppers were planning to use discount vouchers. Alarm bells should start ringing in your head whenever a figure of 90 per cent appears, and sure enough the final paragraph of the report confessed to an elephantine sample bias. All of the people surveyed were registered members of the discount voucher company.

The surprise is not that 90 per cent of members of a discount voucher company were planning to use discount vouchers, but that the 10 per cent who had no intention of using them bothered to reply to the survey. (It reminds me of the Sky News poll – conducted using the interactive red button on the remote control – that declared that 98 per cent of respondents intended to vote in the forthcoming general election. Who, one wonders, were the 2 per cent who thought it worth their while to influence the outcome of a Sky News poll but not have a say in who levied their taxes, oversaw their children’s education, influenced their access to healthcare or sent them to war?)

It is possible that the PR man in question is not stupid. Perhaps he knew there was a sample bias but thought that journalists would be too lazy to spot it. Or perhaps he knew journalists would spot it, but hoped that his client would not. Perhaps he knew that his client would spot it, but also knew that junking the useless research would require him to do more work.

I only hope that no journalist does use the survey. If some do, then they get the PRs they deserve.

A haiku (composed at Glastonbury)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Chai tea and tai chi
Is it a coincidence
They both attract twats?

If I did it

Thursday, February 8, 2007

O J Simpson – the former sports star who is only a killer on the balance of probabilities and not beyond reasonable doubt – may have had his how-to murder manual, If I Did It, dropped by HarperCollins on the grounds that it was staggeringly tasteless, but other publishers are circling (according to a report I read but, alas, can no longer find).

I am clearly missing a trick. After all, I didn’t do it either. If I had done it, though, I would certainly have arranged for a friend to drive me for 60 miles at the head of a convoy of police cars while I sat next to him holding a gun to my head. That is indispensable.

But anyway, I like to think that Simpson’s tome is merely the first of a series. If I Did It – The Murder of Airey Neave Outside the Houses of Parliament in 1979, for instance, would make a good sequel. Or If I Did It – The Nanking Massacre in 1937. There is no shortage of deaths for which Simpson was not responsible. In this context, it seems unfortunate that his first book happened to be about the one person who, in the eyes of a California court, he probably did kill.

Deconstructed horoscopes

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Post-modernism seems to have ignored the subject of horoscopes. No longer. What does your deconstructed future hold for you? The mystic chicken interprets your future…

Aries: You have aspirations and responsibilities, and will be confronted by opportunities and dangers.

Taurus: An astral event suggests a looming danger or opportunity in your health, finance, relationships or two of the above.

Gemini: There will be an opportunity on Friday relating to your aspirations that should be seized with vigour.

Cancer: Activity in the heavens that actually took place a long time ago but is only now observable means that Friday will bring danger. Exercise caution.

Leo: Universally applicable and complimentary traits will serve you well in realising your aspirations this week.

Virgo: Apparently negative traits that can actually be seen as virtues (such as an impulsive nature or an inability to suffer fools) will need to be kept in check to avert dangers.

Pisces: Something unexpected will happen, which is ironic, given that this horoscope should have anticipated it and warned you about it.

Aquarius: You will receive advice that is either more reliable than this horoscope and should be heeded, or less so, and ignored.

Capricorn: You will be required to make a decision about something that will have a bearing on your well-being or the well-being of others, thus reassuring you that your actions have meaning.

Saggitarius: Someone will do something that will appear to have a hidden motive if you look hard enough.

Scorpio: Although your fate is pre-determined by mighty forces we are fit never to comprehend but only to interpret, you are somehow able to exercise agency.

Libra: Your horoscope is very similar to another star sign’s, because making up 12 of these things is quite a challenge week after week.

The power of one

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Communists tend not to have done very well in European elections since the advent of multi-party elections, but my local Communist League candidate was something special.

Celia Pugh polled just 38 votes in Bethnal Green and Bow, which, given that she voted for herself, means that she represented 3 per cent of her own voters. So lacklustre was her campaign that she polled 30 fewer votes than the Alliance for Change party’s Ejiro Etefia, a single-issue candidate standing on a platform of abolishing parking tickets.

It is also worth noting that the global overtones of “Communist League” are slightly misleading. There was in fact just one other Communist League candidate in 2004, a butcher who polled 37 votes in Edinburgh East. Perhaps he forgot to vote for himself. Amazingly the Communist League fielded even fewer candidates than the Alliance for Change, which mustered three. It seems to be a rare instance of individualist communism.

How did Pugh do so badly? Was it, I wonder, her slogans? History doesn’t relate what they were, but here are a likely top 5:

1. Power to the person.

2. From me according to my ability, to me according to my need.

3. Religion is the opiate of the mass.

4. Socialism in one person.

5. Worker of the world unite.

The one Ronnie

Friday, June 17, 2005

Van Gogh, Munch, Caravaggio. Mad as bag ladies at Hogmanay, but artistic geniuses to a man. I was excited, then, when I heard that another mad artist’s work was coming up for auction in Lincoln on July 2. If madness is the food of art then Ronnie Kray, one half of the murderous East End twins and occasional avant-garde decorator of Whitechapel pubs, has excess of it.

Ronnie Kray paintingPainted during Ronnie’s “Broadmoor Period”, Untitled Landscape with Cottage and Tree is one of a number of similar works depicting in bold colours a rough hewn landscape touched by a distant vision of civilisation.

Note especially the angle of the tree, the gentle disregard for perspective in the cottage and the shy, almost anonymous signature.

As bad art created by celebrities goes, it is right up there with D. H Lawrence’s A Holy Family.

Train of thought

Monday, June 7, 2004

Our timetable might be haywire at weekends, a poster at the front of the Aylesbury to London train informs me, but that is only because of “track improvements”.

Now I may be as thick as the knot of hair blocking the plughole in Brian May and Anita Dobson’s bath, but even I can see that this is a gross euphemism. Improvements are when you make a competent thing better. Performing essential work so your customers don’t die is called repairs.

Travelling on Chiltern Trains is bad enough without being patronised by middle management functionaries. Credit us with some intelligence.

(originally posted June 7, 2004)

Eee bah gum

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

I rarely enjoy avant garde theatre, but it is worth going occasionally to remind oneself why it doesn’t deserve any more public subsidy. Leaving the Royal Court Theatre’s attic space last weekend after watching Lucky Dog, I felt that public funds could be profitably diverted into sealing playwrights inside a small container until Godot turned up.

Lucky Dog, by Leo Butler, is a play so tedious that I kept myself amused only by running a private sweepstake on which of my buttocks would fall asleep first. But what really bothered me was the characters’ arbitrary Northern accents.

Why do fringe playwrights and directors insist on a Northern twang? Do they think it lends their characters an earthy quality? Do actors need to put on a voice to get into character?

I think it is because playwrights think Received Pronunciation is uncool. They see Northern accents as the antidote to the bourgeois, everyday feel of RP, without the need to explore anything as vulgar as Estuary English. It is a lazy way of creating a person who is remote yet familiar, moral but unpredictable, and dramatically encumbered by the decline of post-industrial Britain.

I also think it is a cheap and patronising way of disguising inadequate characterisation. By all means tell your actors to match their accents to their location, but don’t think that you can import a socio-political agenda just by having them say “anyroad” for “anyway”.

(orginally posted June 1, 2004)

Colonel of truth

Sunday, March 28, 2004

KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken but renamed for alienating its core market with excessive use of syllables) has a new and highly calorific salad (438 kCal) for its health-conscious clientele. The soundtrack to the advertisement promoting this greenery (which, with 28.7g of fat, is worse for you than a burger) is a song by The Flirtations called Nothing But a Heartache. Heartache, shortness of breath, tingling in the left arm…

(originally posted Mar 28, 2004)