Thursday, March 30, 2006

Nine billion pounds invested in the NHS

It was announced this morning on the Today programme that the cleaning up of the nuclear power industry would cost nine billion pounds more than expected. Me and Phil had a good old fashioned laugh about this this morning. He said we could get a gold plated Barts for that. I said we could get Sir Nigel Crisp mummified in a pyramid. Then it got really ridiculous and Phil said we could get John Cleese as the minute hand on Mohammad Al Fayed's clock. I said John Cleese wasn't anything to do with health.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Embracing your outer contradictions

Sorry to completely plagiarise J, but I will explain.

We went to visit Phil's cousin at the weekend (who I will try to keep anonmymous in case the Daily Mail get on to us - but you don't have to be a brain surgeon or even an upper GI trainee to work out who she is). Anyway she is the Princess (too young to be Queen) of blogging. She did a recent entry 'Embracing your inner contradictions' which was quite sweet. My contradictions are defintely outer. Whether that makes them easier to embrace or not I don't know. Sometimes I feel like smearing them on Tessa Jowell's nose. My contradictions also seem to reproduce and produce mutant cousins, which come round and whack you on the bottom when you're not expecting it.

Or are they whacking you with a fat bunch of fifty pound notes, which they then stuff down your greedy little neck?

To cut a long analogy of contradictions short, I had the worst interview since the classic Spud in Trainspotting scene of 1996.

It started badly, with the pleasant interviewer lady, who must have been a few years younger than me, saying 'You're from Leek', 'I'm from Newcastle'. I couldn't think of anything to say and rather than say 'any of your friends died from heroin overdoses or motorbike accidents' had to think of what I remember about Newcastle. Posh of course, but it wouldn't be polite to say that. The New Vic, I said. Theatre in the round (I didn't say that). What I said was 'Good Golly Miss Molly'! The 'classic' musical which was the most famous thing to come out of Stoke on Trent (allegedly) before Robbie Williams emerged.

Then my presentation wouldn't work, so I read it off the piece of paper, and felt a bit like one of Taggart's young policemen assistants reading out some crappy statement from a well known crook. Even I had a glazed questionning look as I finished reading the thing. It turns out I was the only person who said that a good quality service wasn't cheap. They even told me so. Part of my presentation said that 5% cost cutting would be difficult in the long term. They told me that actually costs were being cut by 10%. I don't know if it was audible, but I took a deep intake of breath at that point. I was shocked.

It finished after a few more cock ups with me trying to crack jokes when I didn't know the answers to their questions. Suddenly the car park attendance and reception work looks attractive. 10% cuts. So much for meditation too. Much better would be to practice interview questions.

One major outer contradiction I have is this. The strength of materialism lies in its ability to help people in the here and now. Teaching women of the developing world how to meditate or do yoga isn't going to feed their families.

But I put this to my Yoga teacher, Roberto four years ago, in December 2001. He said look up Entropy in the Dictionary of Philosophy. I argued with him, and said that I didn't need to look it up, I'd done A Level Physics and knew that it was the second law of Thermodynamics, that you can't generate energy from a closed system. Energy is not perpetual; life is not eternal. He said, look it up. The dictionary said that the second law had been disproven, and that entropy can be perpetual. Life can be eternal.

So I will carry on my yoga and meditation in the hope that I will not become depressed and/or anxious about the impending doom upon us all. Phil bought his Mum a midwifery bike for Mother's day - so there we have it, the modern day dialetical materialism. Idealism (me) with a bit of healthy materialism (Phil). I have embraced my outer contradiction.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Tat Nav

Well. Another week of contrasts.

Started off so well with me cool, calm and collected. I'm successfully meditating. Let me qualify that. It means that in my part time role as Car Park Attendant I can 'lie'. On Monday when the car park was full and one lady got blocked in by about four cars, one of which wouldn't identify itself (the driver wouldn't anyway)I took the highly unusual step of closing the car park. When people started getting aggressive and trying to run me over to get into it I said there'd been an accident and we didn't want to disturb the scene.

Then after a couple of other disasters at work me and Phil got food poisoning from what was my favourite local curry house. Damnation, as Dad would say. Hours of puke.

But we had a day's holiday booked yesterday and had a wonderful time skiing. It started off badly with me wanting to leave the house while Phil was still in the throes of passion 'downloading' with the other love in his life (the computer). So we ended up leaving at about eight o'clock giving us about an hour to get to the other side of the universe (Milton Keynes - Snow Dome). Milton Keynes is how I imagine Los Angeles - you don't know if you've got there or just left. It's ideal for car lovers, and lovers of roundabouts.

We arrived an hour late, but the teacher was lovely, a woman in her fifties who smiled and welcomed me immediately. I had to ski the second I got there but managed to stay upright. There was a hilarious bit when I fell over on to the travelator and the lovely instructor lady fell on top of me, whilst trying to help me and we both went heading straight for the mechanics of the machine. It reminded me of Raiders of the lost ark, when the boulder was rushing for them, the instructor was screaming at one of the others 'press the red button, press the red button' and just like Harrison Ford, we were saved in the nick of time.

Basically, she was a brilliant teacher who made it so simple, with us all together as a team, skiing backwards and everything. I was amazed as to how good we were at the end of three hours (two in my case). Very lucky to have such a good teacher for my first experience of skiing.

On the way back I navigated a bit, showing Phil the shortcuts around Stokey - Tat Nav.

Have gardened almost all day. Planted all the stuff we bought at Columbia Road about six weeks ago at Phil's Mum's Birthday; pansies mainly. Also planted lettuce seed, pruned the climbers and tidied up the rubbish. Spring is the busiest time for gardening. Summer is just for watering and sitting.

When I look out of the window I can see the mini daffodils, the pansies and primroses, and the hazel is against the cream expanse of wall, twiddling its catkins waiting for the summer calm.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Saw this last night, which was a treat for Mum for her birthday.

I don't normally like theatre - I find it too contrived and unrealistic. At least with telly, somehow you can do whatever you want as it's not in real time for the viewer.

Perhaps the reason for this is I initially saw excellent theatre - one of the first things I saw was 'The Woman in Black' in its first showing on a school trip in 1988 - it was on in Birmingham or somewhere. It was absolutely brilliant and has meant that anything I have seen since has had to live up to this.

Anyway, this is a brilliant play. It's the writing that's outstanding, but I also loved the set and costume, the acting - well that was good too. I thought that with such a well written play, the acting couldn't really go wrong.

It's basically a story of a middle aged history academic (George) in what seems to be a poor marriage - destructive and degenerating with a heavy drinking wife (Martha), they invite a young biology fellow and his new wife round for drinks and have a few drug fuelled debates and a late night, where George ends up telling MArtha their 21 year old son has died.

But for me, in addition to the good laughs you have when they're having their rows, the play is tackling very bid topics.

There is a massive amount of symbolism, which to be honest is what floats my boat. George and Martha were the names of the first president of the United states and his wife for a start; the play is questioning existence itself. There are 3 acts to the play.

George symbolised History to me. The young biology teacher symbolised Science, and his young wife symbolised the Church (her father was a Bishop or something). I couldn’t decipher what Martha represented, but then we were told at the start of the third act – she represented Mother Earth.

What was so powerful about the play was how set in the ‘now’ of 1962 it was; I was very impressed with myself for spotting this. Even before looking at the programme I had written down ‘1962 set?’. The set and costume were so accurate apart from anything else and there were a couple of references to the war being about twenty years ago. The house was immaculate, academic American, but also very homely. Even the colours of the set had an impact – lovely warm browns making one feel very nostalgic for the now. Only Honey (representing the Church to me) was yellow in contrast. Then by the third Act, blue was introduced, in Martha’s top and a blue shadow cast from an open door.

George’s speeches constantly referred to ‘historical inevitability’, which chimes so well now and also reminds me of Castro’s speeches around then; ‘History will absolve me’ and the start of the Cold War.

Mother Earth, was older than History – Science and the Church come along together, then the Church gets sick, Science couples with Mother Earth. Then History tells Mother Earth her son, Humanity presumably, is dead. But at the end, you don’t know if this Death is real or an illusion. Then it’s just Mother Earth and History together again.

One criticism is that the play could have more music, the sound was also bad – Mum could hardly hear it and the sounds could have created improved ambience for the audience.

Should Mother Earth listen to History?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Excellent comedy on Saturday night

By reading mine and Phil's blogs you'd think we lived in different countries, never mind shared a relationship. He's managed to make Das Capital look small in his latest entry (I'm talking about blogging here!) - and he didn't even mention the amazing comedy we saw on Saturday night.

There was a women's writing festival - 'Chic-Lit' in Bethnel Green in this great, modern, small-theatre venue place. All of the women were hilarious - which I really wasn't expecting. It sounds awful, but I was expecting them to be radical lesbian people, and it was incredibly civilised without your average chavvish asbo lout present.

I have decided to get a dishwasher.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

PR Watch (Number 4)

Phil has asked me to explain paragraph 3 from the last posting.

My argument is thus: PR (Public Relations) has essentially developed into free advertising. Perhaps that's what it should be called - FA; sweet FA. Anyway, large and small companies have 'Marketing' or 'Advertising' or 'Communications' departments. If they don't then they employ some other company to do it for them. Essentially they try and sell stuff, not through advertising but through the news articles themselves - because people trust it more.

I speak from personal experience. One of my first jobs when I moved to London, ten years ago, was at 'Freud Communications'. A PR company. It was about paying idiots quite a lot to spout bullshit, to try and sell some other form of bullshit, or even the same bullshit. Bullshit dressed as 'Vache Merd' if you will. When I was working there I remember Denise Van Outen was promoting coffee or something. The people I was working with said she had broken her arm filming a TV commercial - it was lies, but it got in the national newspaper. Then there was stuff at the other, even less salubrious end of the market. KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). Some people on the team were paid quite a lot when KFC got 'positive coverage', ie not very often. So people would try to come up with brilliant ideas of how to get positive coverage of KFC in the press. They tried, but 'Zilcho' occured. So, still bizarrely enthusiastic, they spent hours getting together clips in the press every time KFC was mentioned. The even better paid idiots on the 'KFC account' were paid a fortune to do 'Crisis Communications'. I remember one girl, who was permanently on call (had a mobile phone which was quite rare back then) and the clients (KFC) would ring her day or night for a comment every time someone got stabbed in or around a KFC - which was incredibly often. So she would effectively quosh or bury this bad news in some bullshit, trying to show what a great contribution KFC made to humanity.

I hated it. I left after two weeks.

But PR is on the increase. Just like America, with the inexorable rise of the private sector and the accompanying corruption that goes with it, bad money chases bad money. We’re all persuaded to spend more on stuff we don’t need, at the expense of the stuff which is essential, that should be free anyway. Every TV or Radio programme you watch or hear is about ‘promotion’ – promotion to make you spend money when you quite clearly shouldn’t. And who is monitoring this? Ofcom. Absolute idiots. They’re the worst perpetrators – careerist media whores, with a conflict of interest register that makes the Bible look short.

My argument is that we don’t want a society where greed and money is the main motivating factor. In fact, we want the opposite. A society where care and love for humanity and the planet motivates us. Journalism should be coming from this angle – where we’re trying to report what’s going on to help humanity.

A couple of weeks ago in Time Out I saw a little article saying that Ofcom had ruled that it’s ok for media companies to make money out of stuff they’re supposed to be independently reviewing – ie Richard and Judy selling the books they ‘review’ on their programme.

Should Lord Archer, a convicted, lying criminal be allowed to advertise his (utterly shit) book on their TV programme for free without criticism?

Health PR is even worse. At least Lord Archer’s book can be used to keep yourself warm in the energy shortages. But the disgusting scum who promote private health care and crappy drugs in the ‘free’ press are precisely that. Why don’t they tell us to campaign for a free, comprehensive NHS, give up smoking, get rid of our cars, cycle to work, eat more fresh fruit and veg and do some yoga? Because they don’t make any money out of it.

But then, just when I was slitting my wrists at work, with none other than Jesus Christ’s own PR machine working overtime, it turns out Tony Blair no less has given Trotsky a large dose of free PR – for World Book Day. Is it a joke that a biography of Trotsky is his favourite book?

I did a bit of research on the internet and it turns out that Isaac Deutscher (the guy who wrote the book) is a bit unsympathetic to our Trotsker, but it is a good book, so hopefully they’re going to reissue it so I can read it.

Talking of PR, in Computing Which they are on about a new ‘gadget’. A computer ‘book’ where you can download 200 books onto this one book sized screen thing. Brilliant idea for someone like me. I will try and get Phil on the case. That would be excellent, a way I could take loads of luggage on holiday without the weight.

One minute I hate PR (Jeffrey Archer), the next minute I love it (new portable computer book). One minute I hate free speech (the BNP), the next minute I love it (a book about Trotsky). I am sick of contradicting myself. I suppose that's how David Cameron feels, but at least he's got a new baby to take his mind off life's hypocrises.