Tuesday, December 06, 2016

When Is A Trump Not A Trump?

During his presidential campaign Donald Trump regularly said things that made people sit up and take notice. Tabloid headline writers frothed at the mouth, political commentators analysed and dissected, and the rest of us either hailed him as a breath of fresh air or accused him of narcissism, xenophobia, racism, sexism, misogyny and stupidity, sometimes in equal measure. He was certainly not a vanilla candidate. Love him or loathe him, you couldn’t ignore him. Which makes his behaviour post-election all the more puzzling.

Even the most casual of observers cannot failed to have noticed that Trump’s language and demeanour have both changed following his victory over Hilary Clinton. Gone, for the most part, is the bluster and the ‘shock and awe’ one-liners that would have a late-night radio DJ blushing in embarrassment. His tone is conciliatory, more statesman-like and far less aggressive than prior to the election. That’s good, you might think, given some of the unhinged nonsense that he came out with during the campaign, but I wonder how his staunchest supporters will feel if his more colourful pledges and promises are simply going to melt away into the shadows because they are unworkable, unrealistic or unpopular with the rest of his party. Will they feel that they have ordered a fresh helping of Dr. Jekyll and instead been served up a rather familiar-tasting batch of Mr. Hyde? Don’t get me wrong, I dislike Trump’s rhetoric and would hate to see many of his campaign commitments being enacted, but that’s not the point. I didn’t vote for him but Millions did, presumably because they liked what they heard. He won their votes because he promised to build a wall and stop Muslim immigration, so it’ surely only a matter of time before those voters start demanding their wall, regardless of the practicalities. 

This issue is important – I don’t want to live in a country where a politician can spout any old nonsense in order to get elected and then promptly deny comments and renege on promises once he (or she) has been handed the reigns. If this was Trump’s deliberate strategy to win, he’s been dishonest at best. People will not be getting what they thought they were voting for. If the new Donald-Lite (still with the same levels of artificial colouring) has emerged thanks to a series of back-room chats with political heads older and wiser than his, he’s been extremely naïve. Either way, there’s a certain irony to the fact that Trump’s campaign team went after Hilary Clinton’s character and personal credibility at every given opportunity! “She can’t be trusted,” they said. “She’s dishonest”. “She’ll say anything to get into power”. Sound familiar?  

One final thought: one of Trump’s key campaign slogans was “drain the swamp” – a pledge to cut the money and corruption out of American politics by clamping down on lobbyists and booting out the old-school-tie Washington career politicos. Anyone looking at his first series of appointments since winning the election would be forgiven for thinking they all looked a little, well, swampy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

11 Aug 2015

A very good friend of mine recently became single again following, to use celebrity parlance, a ‘conscious uncoupling’. That’s a conscious uncoupling that he was spectacularly unconscious of right up until Pickfords drew up outside the shared home and her brother got out of the van to break the news. My friend, being of a similar vintage to me, subsequently asked me for advice on dating. Which is a little bit like asking the Pope for advice on brands of lubricant. Attempting to be helpful, I suggested there might be an app for that kind of thing, and he subsequently reported back to me that he was having a bit of success with Tinder. Curious, I decided to have a look. And here comes my big confession: I’ve now looked at several hundred Tinder profiles and have been astonished, amused and occasionally horrified by what I have seen. Given this experience, I would therefore like to offer these 10 Tinder profile hints to ladies everywhere, as a public service.

1.     Avoid group photos as your primary profile picture - we men are not mind readers. We are simple creatures and in the absence of a clear profile pic we are going to assume that you are the fat one on the end. You’re the fat one on the end, aren’t you? Thought as much…

2.     Similarly avoid multiple pictures of you and your bestie. I don’t like guessing games. And she’s the hotter one, isn’t she? Thought so…

3.     Don’t think that leaning over and showing off your cleavage will distract us from the fact that you clearly ate your ex-husband. We all love breasts but obese is obese and you’re not fooling anyone.

4.     Avoid pictures of your children and/or pets as your primary profile picture. I’m 42 and have baggage. I assume that if you’re over 30, you’ll probably have baggage too. That said, you did once have a life before you became a mother and/or cat owner. You love your kids/cats, of course, but I don't want to date them. Besides, it's illegal. 

5.     Don’t use the expression ‘I have [insert number here] kids and they are my world’. Of course they are – that’s implicit. If you have [insert number here] kids and are completely ambivalent about them, I question your ability as a parent! I’m interested in you and your personality; your children probably already have a father and don’t need another one. And if you only have time for your kids then I’m not entirely surprised that you are single. You might want to get used to that.

6.     Smile, for fuck sake! Pulling vinegar face, duck face or gurning at the camera is not helping. Go and put some make-up on, smile and give yourself a fighting chance. 

7.     Don’t post pictures of yourself in your underwear and/or bikini. You may be a triathlete and fitness fanatic but we’ll just think you’re easy. Sorry, but it’s true…

8.     Don’t post pictures of you and your mates in your living room proudly pointing at a coffee table full of empty bottles of beer/vodka/Jagermeister. I like a drink as much as the next fella, but I don’t want to be holding your hair at the end of every date and reminding you that I’m not your ex. Show a little class.

9.     Cartoons and/or obscure pictures of things other than you – celebrities, manga, Betty Boop, horses showing their teeth, sunrises and babies in the bath with foam on their heads – are not cute. I’m just going to assume you have something to hide. Or you’re unhinged. Or just plain ugly. See point 1 above.

10. Please don’t make statements like ‘wot u see is wot u get and I ain’t changing for no-one coz I am 4 real’. Confidence and self-respect are important, but I can see your picture. You’re covered in badly spelled tattoos and if you had any more piercings on your face you’d start leaking. Poor grammar isn't going to seal the deal. 

No charge, people!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

02 July 2014

On fame...

It's been a while since I've seen any live music and I broke my famine 2 weeks ago by going to watch Gary Numan at the Cambridge Junction. One of the things that struck me, despite the obvious volume and wonderfully evocative light show, was the fact that Gary basically came on, said 'hello', played for 105 minutes, said 'thank you and goodnight' and then went off. No witty repartee or chatter between songs, just 105 solid and sweaty minutes of intense music. A direct result of well-publicised shyness or a conscious desire to stay detached and let the music be the star of the show? Either way, this was incredibly refreshing.

We now live in a world where musicians/artists/pop-tarts want you to buy the album, then the branded fragrance, then the duvet cover, then the breakfast cereal. It's not enough that you like the music, you have to buy into the personality. The camera crew waits at the bottom of the bed as the waters break, and celebrities hawk pictures of their babies around the tabloids and glossies before the surgeon has even finished with the stitches. There's no mystique, no distance, no boundary. In such a culture, what a breath of fresh air to find an artist who so clearly wants his work to stand above everything else and seems to view public interest in his personality and opinions as lying somewhere between curious and totally baffling. I've seen him interviewed and he is always courteous, honest and open but every question is greeted with an expression that seems to say "why on earth are you asking me that?"

Gary claims not to be a particularly great keyboard player or guitarist but to me he epitomises the definition of the word 'musician'. I for one pplaud him for his approach and wish there were more like him.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fair prices and fair profit?

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about the problems with unfettered capitalism. The basic theme was that capitalism is a fine and efficient system for wealth-creation but there have to be legal, moral and cultural checks and balances in place to ensure that profits are not excessive, customers are not ripped off and the future of these private companies can be sustained.

I’m not vain enough to assume that anyone read this post (except for possibly my mother) but, if you’ll forgive the narcissism, some of the themes I mentioned seem to have been thrust back in the spotlight during the last 24-48 hours.

On Wednesday, British Gas somewhat unwisely decided to have a live Q&A session on Twitter and invited Tweeple to post questions. Tweeple did not disappoint, and the British Gas twitter feed was submerged under a veritable tidal wave of piss and vinegar, sarcasm and derision. Put simply, British Gas got a kicking for raising energy prices (again!) at a time when the cost of living is still increasing, salaries are at best static and a growing number of families are sliding towards the breadline.

This got me thinking about the nature of poverty. I’ve never had first-hand experience of genuine poverty. I’ve had to opt for the supermarket own-brand beer on occasions, but that’s about as bad as it’s been. I certainly can’t comprehend what it must be like not knowing how to pay the next rent bill or put the next meal on the table. Most people, especially those with a left-of-centre political opinion, would agree that reducing the gap between the richest and poorest in any society is a good thing. That’s something to aim for and work towards, surely? Which makes the performance of those politicians on the panel of BBC’s Question Time show last night all the more depressing. The middle classes are not the biggest victims of this financial climate in any way, shape or form; our house prices are still rising even if our salaries are not. We might be having fewer meals out and cutting back a bit on the weekly wine but we’re not being thrown out on to the street and we’re certainly not dying. By trying to perpetuate this myth that it’s the middle classes bearing the brunt of increased living costs, the political classes are doing us all a great disservice and completely failing to offer any new or imaginative solutions to the problem.

I’m not suggesting that renationalisation of the utility companies is in any way a solution, but the politicos are perplexed and seem to have nothing new to offer. Meanwhile, the energy companies keep on ramping up the costs and making vague threats about ‘the lights going out’ if their profit margins are in any way limited through political intervention and legislation.

To repeat the final thought of my previous post, how much profit is enough and how can this cabal of companies continue to operate in a way that places shareholders rather than customers at the heart of their operations?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The hole in the middle

Some days the world feels full of light and fun and promise, and every face seems to smile back at yours. Other days, you look around and all you can see is decay, deceit, dirt and delusion.

Some days, with a bit of a sun tan and a decent haircut, I look at my face in the mirror and think “yeah, you look ok. Certainly not award-winning, but definitely ok”. Other days, I look at myself and feel like the foreman of the great heavenly face factory got to 16:50 on a Friday afternoon and thought “you know what, we’ve got some bits left over here so we can probably knock one more out before the weekend”.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Been A Long Time, Been A Long Time...

I did not watch the Superbowl. Mostly because I like my sleep and also because to me, it's like the 6 Nations but with more make-up and bigger shoulder pads. Like the cast of Dynasty on a very camp school sports day. If you did watch this make-up and Spandex-fest, though, you can't help but have noticed an apparently important game of football being overshadowed by the return of Destiny's Child. They're back, screamed the press. THEY'RE BACK!!! As if it's supposed to be important. Those of us of a certain age who remember life before manufactured pop groups were the norm tend to be singularly unimpressed when manufactured pop groups reform. Mostly because it only feels like about 20 minutes since they split up and primarily because we viewed them as an irrelevance in the first place. It's Destiny's Child, for goodness sake: followers of a well-trodden path that was beaten down by The Supremes and many dozens of other groups since.  It's not The Who playing Won't Get Fooled Again, is it? It doesn't, you know, like, matter...

It's an old cliché but it's really true. Sooner or later, you will start to compare music on the radio to the bands you grew up with; bands who were themselves doing it 2nd, 3rd of 4th time around. The pioneers are now few and far between. I recently bought the Led Zeppelin 2007 live album and was astonished at how fresh, vibrant and remarkably un-lip-synched it sounded. Suck on that, Ms. Knowles. Right to the end of the flag pole.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Comment...?

Let me start this post by getting my excuses in early: I am a fully paid up member of the Dawkins & Hitchens fan club. I believe organised religion is, for the most part, an unnecessary and divisive phenomenon based more on self-interest and self-preservation than anything else. But then, I’ve always had a bit of an issue with authority, especially when it is claimed to be moral. 

The last few days have seen a number of stories covered by the press in relation to Holocaust Memorial day. From the publication of an ‘offensive’ cartoon by Gerald Scarfe in the Sunday Times to comments from a Lib-Dem MP regarding the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories, the casual observer might feel that it’s completely off-limits to articulate a viewpoint that might possibly be deemed critical of, or offensive by, anyone of Jewish faith at this time of year.

I’ve personally never felt that religion should be a ‘no go’ subject. Despite some very obvious quirks in relation to diet and genital-mutilation, Judaism is a religion characterised by much warmth and humour and so it saddens me to see religious leaders pulling out the holocaust trump card when anyone dares to criticise the actions of contemporary Jews in the Middle East. And it’s a shame because it really is a trump card – a nuclear option to which there simply is no answer. Without any shadow of doubt, the holocaust was an appalling event and there are no words to describe the horrors experienced by its victims, be they Jews, homosexuals, ethnic minorities or any of the other groups who were deemed undesirable by the Nazi regime. However, and I draw a deep breath as I say this, no religion (or political regime based on a religious doctrine, for that matter) should be beyond scrutiny or criticism and it is most regrettable when anyone in a position of political or religious authority attempts to claim otherwise.

Of course, timing is everything. The timing of the cartoon and MP David Ward’s comments were both spectacularly bad, but does that make either anti-Semitic? Would the outcry have been less vociferous at any other time of the year? I can’t say, but I am deeply troubled by the way in which any supposed criticism of Israel is branded anti-Semitic in the same way as I object to how small numbers of Islamist radicals took the cartoons published by Danish newspapers and altered them in order to spread violence in the region. Of course the Middle East conflict is an incredibly complex issue but I often think it’s a little too easy for both sides to turn on anyone who dares to comment on it and claim their views to be simplistic or naïve. Maybe a healthy dose of naivety is actually just what the situation requires.

No one should deny the holocaust nor attempt to belittle its effect on the Jewish people or psyche. In the same breath, however, freedom of speech is an incredibly important human right and no government or religion should think its conduct is beyond reproach or analysis. People of all faiths (or of none) should have paused last Sunday to reflect on the holocaust as one of the greatest examples of man’s inhumanity to man. In future, Jewish leaders should also draw a more distinct line between the events of the past and present, and avoid the kind of intolerances and careless labelling that they themselves have so frequently derided.