Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Thinking without the box

It’s easy to be narrow minded. Dig a trench and fill it with those who agree with you, don’t accept any arguments or alternate viewpoints, defend your right to an opinion without caring for those of others.

It’s harder to be open-minded, it takes effort and few of us have the time or energy for that. It starts by trying to accept that there are always other ways to think about something. I was prompted to explore this concept having heard a Ted Talk by Rory Sutherland. He was arguing that money spent in one way could be better spent in another if we thought about the experience in a different way. His argument was against speed and for comfort but the hypothesis applies in a lot of different areas.

Looking at the desperate plight of Syrian refugees it is easy to take sides pro and anti but the situation is inevitably more complex. Our government seems pitifully bad at taking responsibility for crises that it had a role in instigating. It’s sometimes as if the consequences don’t enter our thought process. We’re always looking for the right and wrong, the black and white. Perhaps there’s another reason it’s called grey matter.

Those that were able to flee Syria and get any distance did so with luck, and money. A great number were the intelligentsia, the middle-classes, those that could afford to pay traffickers. The vast quantities of money that entered the black market as a result of this conflict is frankly disturbing. Paying crooks absurd sums to get aboard overcrowded dinghies because the west couldn’t face up to its responsibilities.

When thinking about the plight of refugees it seems that the English (and our media) think only of them as a drain on resources. Aside from the moral viewpoint Germany may have had different reasons for accepting more of them. Apparently they could see an ageing population and a declining workforce, a demographic vacuum. Do we not have those issues?

Imagine instead, morals aside, that the money paid to traffickers had instead been filtered through a central European fund to re-house and re-establish the individuals concerned. Instead of an immediate (or short-term) drain they brought wealth into the countries that chose to take them.

Ignoring the obvious and oft-spoken truths that migrants often contribute more to the economies of countries they take residence in, this simple move would’ve prevented money being in the black-economy and instead been used for humanitarian purposes.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Post-truth politics, rise of the clowns

There are lies, damned lies and politics. We have arrived in the age of deceit, where elected figures now behave in the exact ways their worst critics always alleged that they were capable of. Distortion and twisted interpretation are no longer sufficient, politicians have learned that they can use blatant lies to suit their aims and that there will be no repercussions. It’ll even get them elected or promoted.

It’s very dark out there, bleak in fact. Where do we go from here?

Envisaging a world where our leaders are so divorced from reality that they believe their own blather means we’ll end up with legions of Trump-a-likes. Cartoon characters who dominate the media because they say outrageous things and polarise opinions.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe we live in a civilised society, the evidence firmly suggests otherwise. Our representatives in power bicker over who can be the most extreme, pandering entirely to a small section of society who once lodged a protest vote because they have no understanding of the real world. Rather than rise above it, they embraced the distraction and relished the opportunity to blame someone else. Claimed it as a mandate when it was the scarcest majority, influenced by distortions and lies.

Once we leave the EU and barricade all ports and other points of entry, who will we have to blame? Our Governments are so short-term in their thinking that they’ll no doubt have engineered another media-dominating crisis for us to argue over. Perhaps the Russians are coming, the ones that don’t already own all our property. I wonder if we’ll expect an EU Army to defend us

We’ve allowed this to happen. Giving our attention to legion upon legion of scare-mongering prophets of doom declaring the end of times without ever being challenged on the actual facts. These grey blaggard under-achievers getting in our heads with their insane and inane ranting, blurring the boundaries of truth because they were never anywhere near it.

We’ve already moved so far from reality that we will have trouble finding our way back. Once upon a time there were joke candidates on ballot papers, like the Monster Raving Loony Party. Now they’re all raving but it’s harder to tell the real ‘loons’ from the criminally deluded.

Monday, October 10, 2016

In the court of the lizard kings

It is tempting to think of the elite as reptiles, particularly politicians. Thick skinned, cold blooded, forked tongues, they have all the characteristics. Unfortunately, the truth is much worse. To comprehend that they are human, like you or I, but still choose to behave and act in that way really defies comprehension.

Even given that they are Tories, the behaviour of the right wing during the EU Referendum, the ensuing leadership hogfight and party conference was amusing and depressing simultaneously. It’s a hard feat to achieve but it showed the depths some are willing to plumb in their caustic passion for power.

Unfortunately, the Labour Party has been worse. Sacrificing stalking-horses, denying legitimate members a vote and arguing childishly. All whilst trying to provide a legitimate candidate to challenge Corbyn. For his part JC has been successful at motivating a social movement but woefully lacking at strong leadership, conducting a sharp anti-government dialogue and forming a coherent and supportive cabinet - areas that are fairly essential when we need a credible and effective opposition.

I don’t know what the roadmap to becoming a politician looks like but I imagine it takes a lot of tedious graft. An interest in news and political theory which perhaps develops into some desire to be of greater use to society, percolated through studying politics and history at a Russell Group University, most likely Oxbridge.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit, stage left

As a West Brom fan and Labour voter I’m fairly accustomed to losing. I’m used to the pit-of-the-stomach dread that accompanies the diminishing light of night and the harsh glow of dawn once the polls have closed and the floodlights switched off.

It’s no better when you know it’s going to happen. Anticipating defeat doesn’t make it any easier. Often I’ve placed money in bets for the results I feared, hoping that this would soften the blow. It never does but at least my Brexit ‘winnings’ enabled me to buy a few beers to help me forget the outcome, temporarily.
I first wrote about my fears for this Euro-referendum two years ago. It seemed painfully obvious to me that if no-one explained the benefits of membership then the constant drip-feed of anti-EU sentiment would go unchallenged and we’d skate out without a second thought.

So it was. Of course it was considerably more complex than that. Faced with domestic challenges it suited our political overlords to lay blame at the door of the EU rather than accept their share. Rather than delivering a northern powerhouse they’d given us a northern poorhouse. Yes, the economy is faltering and we don’t make or own very much but here’s a story about bananas and some misplaced fear of immigrants to distract you.

All the anti-EU campaign had to do was adopt the Conservative election trick of nominating a large fiscal number, incomprehensible to the average man but relatively small in the scheme of international finance. It didn’t even matter if it was true, truth is the first casualty of war and corrections can be made in small print.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Cast Away

The podcast came of age in 2015. Possibly released from the perception that it was edited radio without the music, people realised that the concept was so much more and that the format was awash with great stories.

Serial was the tipping-point, part murder-mystery with elements including a potential miscarriage of justice, you could forgive the occasional irritation caused by the presentation style because you were gripped by the story. It opened a gateway to a world of information and a marketplace for would-be broadcasters everywhere.

I was an early-adopter, having worked in radio that was probably to be expected. Long before the internet took hold I used to harass people to record stuff on cassette tape so that I could hear presenters like Howard Stern, Chris Tarrant and Christian O’Connell. As podcasting launched it enabled me to catch-up with great talent like Geoff Lloyd, Andy Bush, Frank Skinner and Dave Gorman. A period working at Absolute Radio had given me an insight into their genius whilst making me slightly playlist-phobic, hearing them without the music could be a bonus! As a qualifier I should note that there’s few better music stations, I was just over-exposed.

2016 and finding an easy way to listen to more podcasts in my car has greatly broadened my horizons. Spurred by a suggestion that you’re likely to be more intelligent if you listen to stimulating audio in the morning, I immersed myself in the world of podcasts. This immersion allows me to share the following ‘insights’ which could help if you’re looking for similar inspiration.

The first thing I discovered was no great surprise. There’s a lot of crap out there. The reason radio is, in the main, so good is that they have trained and talented broadcasters and producers. They also have decent facilities and production values. That is clearly not the case for a lot of podcasts and podcasters. A huge amount of subject matter that I may have been interested in hearing about was ruined by the presenter or the production.

I suspect I’m a snob but I’m sure the home-technology is there to ensure that the basics are adhered to – stuff like varying levels of audibility, interviews where the interviewer is loud and the interviewee is so quiet that you can’t get the balance right when you’re listening. More common still is that you’ll find a level for the speech only to get a musical stab part-way through the ‘cast that practically bursts your eardrums.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bully, for you

Simplicity is king. We’re so used to sound-bite, short-form, headline-hungry, click-bait that we don’t seem able to deal with stuff if it goes beyond 140 characters. If there’s no image, vid or gif you can forget it.

 Never have we had so much access to information and so little use for it. In my kindlier moments I think we’re paralysed by choice but generally I fear that everyone’s too lazy to dig beneath the surface.

We’re time-poor and overburdened with options, only the attention-grabbing and emotion-stirring manages to cut through. If we’re not provoked into rage that stirs an angry ‘click and share’ moment, then we just move onto the next outrage or pacifier. I’d like to be more involved but LOOK there’s a cat with huge eyes.

In these conditions the loudest and brashest thrive. Keep the message simple and shout it with enough confidence and you can’t fail. It’s an ecosphere that positively encourages the bully. In the home of the brave and the land of the free they’re proving this point so emphatically that few of us can have failed to notice.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The originator principle

My recent work, partially driven by consolidation and having worked for all the major radio groups, has diversified into sectors I probably wouldn’t have considered were it not for financial need and a desire to stretch myself. In many respects though it’s been a relief to engage in proper marketing even if the goalposts have shifted since I last found myself actively selling.

The biggest development is of course with regard to social media, search marketing, online in general. It was a steep learning curve and one I’m still attempting, with crampons and ice-picks. That I am doing it in a sector that I’d not actually encountered until 14 months ago added to the challenge. Thus I am abandoned in the world of hair loss and a radical, innovative solution – Scalp MicroPigmentation.

My involvement began with content creation and copy-checking, putting together the foundations of the company website. It was a useful way to get a grip of the terminology and an understanding of what it does for the recipient. I’ve always found it difficult to ‘sell’ something I don’t believe in so this was a valuable grounding, the reasons to believe.

This nascent industry had crept under my radar and that of many others but to those who have sought it out it has provided a transformation in both their appearance and confidence. Part of my role is to piece these stories together and reach out to the wider – and balder – community.

Consequently, I am now managing a range of social media streams and getting involved in content generation and marketing. It’s a brave new world.

One result of managing spend across social media is that you encounter unlikely trolling. A response to one of our recent posts about our pioneering scalp micropigmentation treatment was a message that simply said ‘Prefer to use the company that invented it’.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Bowie principles

Planet earth is blue. The outpouring of love for Bowie is unsurprising. Few artists have had success in so many sectors over so many decades. He belonged to the internet generation, pre and post, a child of the space race with the determination and talent to excel. He is rightly revered.

I may not have always loved him. He made some music I never want to hear again and some I’d gladly listen to every day. The fact that he was able to transcend mistakes, to float above the norms, mark him out as truly special.

Aside from the music I wondered what his legacy meant for other musicians, what lessons could be learned. 

Work hard      

Signed in the sixties, the original David Bowie was a mod. At least in style. His music had folk/pop leanings and it was unsuccessful. These were different times. He tried hard but couldn’t buy a hit, experiencing three years between hit singles, a first album that flopped followed by another two that did the same. All three albums eventually charted in 1972 after Ziggy.

Before and between albums he played live, joined a dance school, wrote songs for others, appeared in a tv commercial, expanded his influences. He flogged himself around trying to catch a break.

Absorb your influences

We hear a lot about Bowie the chameleon, he was far more of a sponge. He picked up musical and stylistic influences that he liked and absorbed them into his art.  It’s not all about the music although it is said that the Ziggy persona that gave him his break came from moulding his favourite elements of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.

Pay It Back

Bowie/Ronson produced Lou Reed’s Transformer. Bowie also wrote and performed on Iggy Pop’s The Idiot and Lust For Life, playing live in the band. If Ziggy was theft of their identities then David re-paid it many times over. Throughout his career he had an eye for talent and would go out of his way to champion it. Be generous in your largesse, it pays off.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The dormant volcano

It’s been a while. Others were able to spend more time on dissecting the music industry and no-one needed me to echo or challenge those thoughts. I spent some time thinking about a new direction for this blog but aside from challenging injustice in the media, which no-one seems too bothered about, this is what I know……so, for now, it rolls on.

While I was away Adele was saving the music industry with her mega-sales whilst simultaneously proving that we have created a two-tier system in music. We have a few major stars selling across any platform and a mass of niche artists working their long-tails in the background. This is the new normal.