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?

Top 5 platitudes from Gordon Brown’s speech

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gordon Brown’s speech to his flock at the Labour Party Conference today reminded me of the usefulness of the Hoggart Test, the yardstick often applied by Simon Hoggart to platitudinous rhetoric: you can tell whether something is worth saying by examining whether the opposite is absurd.

The following examples from GB’s speech are not taken out of context; they were soundbites that were punctuated with rounds of applause. Could any elected politician get away with the opposite of these statements, as suggested in italics?

“I know the difference between right and wrong.”
I have no sense of morality.

“On the side of hard-working families is the only place I’ve wanted to be.”
Someone has to stand up for slovenly singletons.

“In all times we will put people first.”
Flamingos first, then people.

“We will be the party of law and order.”
We aim to build a society that bears a closer resemblance to the Wild West frontier.

“We will be the party of the family.”
We wish to tear apart basic social units*.

Most long political speeches fail the Hoggart test at some point, and it should be noted that GB’s speech was by no means devoid of significant announcements, but the question still stands: why do we tolerate this kind of bunk from our leaders? It’s a conference speech, not an episode of The West Wing. The people in the auditorium may have been flag-saluting automotons (I know from personal experience that delegates at these events are not independent thinkers) but viewers outside the auditorium aren’t.

*Even Margaret Thatcher, in her famous claim that “there is no such thing as society”, acknowledged the role of families.

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?

It is (boring). Are you?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Independent – a newspaper worthier (and containing only slightly less breaking news) than the Dead Sea scrolls – displays its usual elan this morning.

Its “50 THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT THE FULL MOON” item seems to have been something of a tall order for its authors, Jonathan Brown and Rebecca Bowle, whose 20 minutes of Googling has resulted in two pages of distilled tedium.


Bristol fashion

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Emily Parr, one of the contestants on Big Brother, says that she and her sister are known as “the Hilton sisters of Bristol”.


As claims to fame go, it’s up there with being the Cheech and Chong of Switzerland or the Krankies of Hawaii.

Or, as my friend H suggests, the Wright Brothers of Lockerbie.

(Damn him for thinking of a better joke.)

Wide load

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It is one of nature’s mistakes that the slowest people on any given pavement tend to be the widest.


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.