Posts Tagged 'modern icons'

Exclusive: Obama campaign links to South Ribble’s secret Marxists

Some Marxists eat food like this

I used to moan that there was too little debate about politics in the UK. Policy discussion prominently involved making up slogans and white male politicians boasted about the black people they met. I wanted more robust debate.

Be careful what you wish for. In the US, a country that I admire for its logical approach to spelling, bizarre yet entertaining sports and excellent comedy and drama that often make British equivalents seem like a school play, political hell now regularly breaks loose, and often it’s a bit barmy. Lately the press has decided to debate the meaning of the word Forward, because that’s the Obama campaign slogan.

It’s definitely a more useful arrangement of seven letters than the unspoofable Australian political slogan We are Us, which just makes no sense at all. The question that the hard-of-thinking political class has been asking: does using the word prove that he’s secretly a communist?

I don’t want to prejudge the issue, other than saying that the Marxism claim is the sort of thing that a smelly drunk guy at a bus stop starts telling you about while people give you furtive sympathetic looks. But read the papers, and they’re sounding more like the smelly guy. The Washington Times is just one of the newspapers which pointed out that the radical left often calls its publications “Forward” too. The journalists who wrote the story even went as far as looking these newspapers up on Wikipedia.

(Note to my American journalist peers: we all occasionally fill up 300 words by cutting and pasting from Wikipedia – but if you admit that you’re doing it, you ruin things for the rest of us. Still, it saved me a job finding the links for you.)

Even a stopped clock is correct twice a day, and so the lazy political hacks of the Washington Times have a small point. Historically, a lot of socialist papers have been called Forward. As a name it certainly has the edge over Sideways, Backwards and The Kingston Whig-Standard.

To help my North American readers decide on Forwardgate, I checked out some of the newspapers called Forward that attempt to brainwash Brits.

In Gateshead, Moving Forward newspaper suspiciously offers “free courses” organised by the Gateshead Housing Company.  It promises you will learn “new” skills and meet “new” people.

Communistic American attendees will be pleased to know that there are interpreters available on these courses, as the Geordie accent can be challenging:

If anyone is innocently thinking of sending their children from the US to Gateshead to take one of these courses, I need only remind you of Obama’s compulsory re-education camps that you were warned about in 2009. Could it be that these imaginary camps have simply relocated to the North-East of England? Well, no, but I’ve never started a conspiracy theory before, so you might want to run with this one for me.

The US has a long tradition of political radicals who prefer to live outside the narrow confines of civilisation in places where the norms of polite society and rule of law don’t apply. The UK equivalent of these places is Preston. It is no surprise to find that local South Ribble Borough Council calls its newspaper Forward as well.

You won’t be surprised to hear that the commies have made this publication carbon neutral, when they could just as easily have published one that used non-socialist carbon stuff instead. Provocative.

“Who will win South Ribble’s Search for a Star Contest?” it asks, innocently. I suggest it wants one of its fellow travellers to inform on that person so that the South Ribble Politburo can authorise its secret police to intern him or her without charge as a warning to those who seek to exercise the cherished capitalist freedom to win talent competitions. Is it a coincidence that previous South Ribble Search for a Star Winners are almost always never heard of again? I think not.

Finally, the latest edition of Forward from Birmingham City Council hides its crypto-communist credentials inside articles titled: State-of-the-art new public pool makes a splash and Fun for all at Big Jubilee Weekend, but it doesn’t fool me.

My warning is especially relevant for America’s easily-fooled liberal East coast metropolitans: this disgraceful radical propaganda sheet boasts that:

Influential critics at the New York Times newspaper have placed Birmingham at number 19 in its ‘Places To Go In 2012’ shortlist thanks to the city’s growing reputation for world-class cuisine.

Don’t fall for it, New Yorkers! If you visit one of the area’s interesting, inexpensive and welcoming Indian restaurants there will probably some mind altering Marxist drug in your chicken Balti. How do I know? Well, if the critics from the NYT think there are only 18 better places to visit than Birmingham, someone’s definitely been taking something.

Living the dream

She may be a VIP, but he knows it's still a ridiculous hat

One more thing for Londoners to be proud of: we have Europe’s largest urban shopping centre! In his review of Westfield Stratford City Jonathan Glancey points out the over-use of “VIP” as a way of describing what’s inside – and, when VIP isn’t enough, Vue Cinemas reaches for “luxury VIP” to describe its facility.

There was a time when VIP had meaning – today’s picture is from the 1963 melodrama “the VIPs”, which was an peek into the privileged lifestyle of the rich and famous. In the film the VIPs are stuck in their special bit of London Airport. There’s fog. They argue. No one visits a Vue cinema. I don’t recommend it, but it’s fun to spot Orson Welles and David Frost in the cast.

VIP-creep is classic word hysteria: once your competitor claims VIP facilities, you counter-claim with your own VIP thingy. In nightclubs it often means a bit that’s up a step. In the area around Stratford City (I speak as a former resident), it generally means “not broken yet”.

In press releases, it’s about three times as common as it was a decade ago. It usually refers to something more expensive than other things. Economics dictates that the gap between VIP and non-VIP will eventually cease to exist: someone with a service that’s marginally better than basic – but worse than the worst thing described as VIP – can choose to use VIP to describe their product. They grab some of the tiny amount of residual glamour. This becomes the worst thing described as VIP, and so on.

The growth of “luxury VIP” is an idiotic attempt to reinvigorate the idea of commercial privilege. Between 2000 and 2009 it appeared four times a year in press releases. In 2010, it showed up 42 times. So far this year, 34 times.

Based on the things described on the internet as “Luxury VIP”, I’m looking forward to the remake of the 1963 film: the Luxury VIPs would star Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton and feature a cameo from Peaches Geldof. They are stuck at Heathrow, so they visit the multiplex, use a portable toilet, and hire a minibus. This is living the dream.

This is the world social media made

I had hoped my introductory remarks from the Market Research Society’s Social Media Conference last Thursday would have been the highlight, but I was wrong. I thought people would be retweeting my rousing speech about the path to the fire exits and the location of lunch, but I was mistaken.

Instead the delegates were talking about a ripping speech by internet Eeyore Andrew Keen, the author of The Cult of the Amateur.

The Cult of the Amateur was an angry book about how the internet is destroying culture by creating a world in which everyone’s contribution to a debate is equal, whether or not they know anything worth contributing; a world in which a CEO blog is more “authentic” than a press release, even though they are both written by the same person (a clue for anyone who isn’t in the copywriting business: that’s not the CEO).

It’s a book that is easy to hate (two stars on Amazon from reviewers), but I loved it. This is not to say I agreed with all of it.

Now he’s worrying about the effect that pervasive social media is having on the way we live, and that’s what he was talking about at the conference. A clip here:

The way that social media changes our behaviour worries me, for personal and professional reasons. Personally, as Keen points out (though not in this clip), the ease with which data about us can be collected may mean that privacy becomes something that only rich people pay for, rather than a right. Professionally I note that, when I’m doing editing jobs, increasingly better communication is confused with frantically saying more things.

Most of us spend hours a week hoovering up thousands of pointless status messages, tedious posts, updates and tweets, just in case. It’s like stuffing yourself with the entire menu in a crap restaurant, in the hope you will find something worth eating.

Kicking off

Wayne's father Mickey

I completely agree with Sally Whittle’s excellent blog about the desperate press releases that use the World Cup as a hook to write about something else entirely.

I’d nevertheless like to point out to all these opportunistic press releasers that Talk Normal had got there first.

Jargon’s golden age

Low-hanging fruit is a pain in the neck for them, too

Was there a time when we didn’t have to listen to people in meetings telling us what to do with low-hanging fruit? Indeed there was, and it was more recent than you think.

Usually I go back only a few years when I do my research. But if we take a longer view, it is possible to get some perspective on when we really began talking like idiots.

I can’t tell you when jargon was invented. It is thousands of years since someone discovered that by using words that they didn’t really understand he (it was a he, take my word for it) could kid people that he actually knew what he was talking about, and convince them to do his dirty work for him (even if they couldn’t quite understand what it was he was asking for). Like this:

Caveman 1: (pointing at cave painting of buffalo) Ug!

Cavemen 2, 3 and 4: Ug?

Caveman 1: (raising eyebrow significantly) Ug.

Caveman 2, 3, 4: (nodding sagely at each other) Ah, ug.

It should be pointed out that “ug” is cavespeak for “value proposition”.

Fast forward to the sort of jargon that needles us today. For a lot of the buzzword bingo-type words we hate, the real growth occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s, rather than recently. Look at this graph of how often low-hanging fruit, outside the box and brainstorming turn up in American publishing, adjusted so that their frequency in 1993 was 100 in each case. For these three, as for countless other jargon phrases like world class or cutting edge, a period of slow growth during the early 1990s suddenly accelerates for five or six years. After 2003 or 2004, growth often stops.

The phrase outside the box, used as jargon for thinking creatively, was five times as common in 2003 as it had been in 1998. It’s not like we were unfamiliar with the concept of creative thought until 1998 – of, for that matter, the concept of a box – so it looks like it’s down to people trying to sound hip.

Some of today’s most painful jargon was effectively non-existent in our lifetime. Until the mid-1990s no one wrote about low-hanging fruit (1990-92, seven articles mention it), unless they were writing an article about the location of, well, fruit.

What can this mean? My big theory, based on information that I’m not revealing yet to build up the suspense, is that this was a dot-com phenomenon. With hindsight most of that generation of entrepreneurs were a bit rubbish at changing the world (though few were as loopy as the creators of the iSmell), but they talked a lot about how they were going to do it. For a short time we all wanted to be like the dot-com kids, so we parroted the same crappy MBA jargon that they used. After 2003 the dotcommers mostly disappeared; but now apparently we can’t stop ourselves from talking like them.

The buzzwords the dotcommers left behind are the fag burns in the plush carpet of our language after a bullshit orgy has been held on it. Thanks, guys.

A near-death experience and made-up fluff

The author of the definitive biography of Canadian prog-rockers Rush is featured in this post! It doesn't get better than this, you're thinking.

Three weeks without a post! You must have been worried sick. Turns out I wasn’t crawling across the floor, desperately to reach the keyboard to tap out one last post before the horrific injuries inflicted by a deranged stalker finally did for me. I was doing my University exams, thanks for asking, which were arguably less fun.

The curse of antitalknormalism pursued me even in the musty corridors of the University of London. As one of my lecturers warned me: “In macroeconomics the answers aren’t hard. It’s trying to work out what they’ve asked you that’s the problem.” The second bit of that statement, at least, turned out to be true.

I’ve got a couple of posts ready for this week. Meanwhile, there’s time to answer the question asked by analyst and part-time Renaissance man Jon Collins, rock biographer (five stars on Amazon) and managing director of Freeform Dynamics:

No, Jon, I don’t make the graphs up.

The numbers are always real. Whenever there’s data and I haven’t told you where it is from, I found it by searching and sticking it into a spreadsheet.

On a personal level Mr Collins is both my webcast buddy and was voted the world’s second-best analyst (and the best in Europe) by a jury of his peers, so when he questions my rigour it is naturally hurtful. I’m only partially mollified when he tells me Talk Normal is his second favourite blog, because his favourite is the one where someone writes down what her husband says when he’s asleep, and I checked and she doesn’t have a single bar chart. But, being British, I’m keeping all this negative emotion inside so the bitterness can spill out inappropriately when I’m drunk.

Here’s another thing that might appear to have been made up for a joke. It’s a pygmy jerboa: an animal that looks as if the zoo ran out of fluff half way through inventing it.

Rooney, jazz or pork: which has most class?

Class is permanent

Is Wayne Rooney world class?

For those of you who don’t like football (and gosh, aren’t you going to have a miserable summer as a result), this might seem a pointless, irrelevant or even irritating question. He’ll do exactly the same thing in South Africa whether he is world class or not. But we’re a class-based society, and so we can’t let him out of the country until he has been graded.

It’s not like sport, and football in particular, is in need of another measurement system – what with goals, wins, losses, draws, points, tournaments and cups. World classness, though, has two advantages: it can mean anything you want, and you can apply it to anything or anyone if you’re lazy enough. It is a cross-sector measurement system which helps us to pat ourselves on the back in a non-specific way: if you describe yourself as world class on your web site we might think you’re a fantastist, but we can’t take you to court for it.

At least, not until I’m making the laws.

And so in world classness news this week: is Miami a world class city? Will the UK’s high-speed rail project be world class enough? When ESI Expands Its Singapore-Based Operations to Support Its Asian Micromachining & Passive Components Customers, does this enhance its position as a leading supplier of world-class photonic and laser systems? I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you the answer.

As world classness has become a de facto global ranking system, I thought I’d make use of it. So I Googled news for what is “world class” today and picked the first two non-sporting products I could find to compare to the Little Ginger Wizard. Using this I can get some kind of insight into Rooney’s world classness in a wider context.

Which is why I am the only blogger, today at least, who will give you an analysis of how Rooney rates against jazz music and the US National Pork Board.

Like England’s Great Hope, jazz music inspires strong emotions. Let us not forget that, in December 2009, an attendee at a jazz festival called the police when he heard Larry Ochs play. You decide if he was justified:

But is jazz as a whole better or worse than Wayne Rooney? And are both of them classier than The National Pork Board – after all, pork is a controversial meat that has been dividing selectors’ opinions ever since Deuteronomy didn’t pick it all those years ago.

For Rooney, jazz and the Pork Board I divided the number of articles each year that claim world classness by the number that didn’t. First, the good news. Rooney’s becoming more world class:

But as you can see, opinion is volatile. Not so with jazz, which is consistently accorded world class status far in excess of that of England’s Pugnacious Goal Machine:

Jazz has shown staying power, but there’s a lot of people claiming to be world class these days. Rooney might be scoring at will, but in the run-up to the World Cup he’s still not as consistently reported as being world class as The US National Pork Board:

Next time an England football fan tells you that “I think we can win it this time, Rooney’s world class”, just say to him that it’s a good job we’re not playing the Game of Bacon against team USA on 12 June. On the other hand, we could take them at jazz. That Larry Ochs is rubbish.

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