Thursday, 29 March 2012

Don't panic! Don't panic!

The greater the extent to which people have fuel in their vehicles, with maybe a little bit in the garage as well in a jerry can, the longer we will be able to keep things going.

It's easy to see what Francis Maude was trying to do here:

1. Seize the news agenda and quash unfavourable headlines by branding tanker drivers, who might potentially go on strike, as The Enemy Within.

2. Imply that ordinary citizens and the Coalition are all in this together, standing shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy.

Unfortunately his attempt to summon up the totemic spirit of Winston Churchill succeeded only in channelling Corporal Jones from Dad's Army. Entertaining stuff, but not particularly significant in itself. What's more interesting is that News International, no great friends of the union movement themselves, have chosen to give the government a kicking, rather than just uncritically cheering their doughty stand against "union wreckers". This is what The Sun had to say:

Cameron plans to beat fuel strike .. but fury as it backfires ... David Cameron was accused of being a pie plonker and a fuel fool yesterday over his handling of the Pasty Tax storm and the threatened tanker drivers' strike ... No10 sparked petrol panic across Britain by urging motorists to fill up fast. 

Coming after the Sunday Times'embarrassing probe into the sleazy world of lobbying and donations, it looks, for the moment, as if the Coalition and News International are no longer playing for the same team.

I think it's a lovers' tiff rather than a divorce; after all, Murdoch and the British political elite share too many common interests to become entirely estranged (union-bashing, public sector worker-bashing, getting rid of any pesky regulations that might protect ordinary people from the laxity, greed or malice of the rich and powerful, helping the very wealthy to keep as much of their loot as humanly possible and preserving the whole post-Thatcher-Reagan-era political and economic consensus that has suited the political and media overclass so very well for the last generation or so).

Still, the government's face-saving rush to publicly distance itself from the discredited Murdoch Empire must have set off some furious tantrums in the NewsCorpse bunker. Last year, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, seemed quite happy to let NewsCorpse gobble up the whole of BSkyB without a quibble. Now that there seems to be a possibility that he might not nod the deal through, should Ofcom decide that James Murdoch isn't a "fit and proper" person to run BSkyB. This must be intolerable to the Murdochs, and it's probably no coincidence that they're now giving the Coalition a taste of the sort of headlines they can expect if they don't find a way to make the cherished deal happen.

Conspiracy theory? Possibly, but I'll stick my neck out and predict that the Coalition will continue to get a rough ride in the Murdoch press over the medium term, with a spell of more favourable headlines to follow, if some way is found to make the NewsCorpse takeover of BSkyB happen.

Mind you, that Francis Maude might have a point, after all. With the catastrophic failure of the post-Reagan-Thatcher consensus to carry on delivering just enough prosperity to keep the lower orders compliant and happy and no workable alternative in sight, we may be sitting on an unexploded political and economic time bomb. In times like these, maybe it makes sense to have a shed full of petrol cans.

After all, come the revolution, all those Molotov cocktails aren't going to make themselves, you know.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


You Know What Those Cadbury Chocolates Need? A Little More Cheese
It seems that the Brits are a tad pipped over Kraft Food’s planned acquisition of Cadbury, the iconic British candy company. They worry that Kraft, the maker of Velveeta processed cheese and Oscar Mayer hot dogs, will drag down Cadbury’s oh-so premium reputation.

Today, Kraft’s CEO Irene Rosenfeld sought to calm these fears, saying, “We have great respect for Cadbury’s brands, heritage and people.” Rosenfeld also used the opportunity to announce a new line of products that would adapt the Cadbury brands to American tastes and also promote synergies between the two company’s product lines. The brand extension includes three new flavors of Cadbury Creme Eggs:
  • Creme Cheez: a chocolate egg filled with Cheez Whiz
  • Steak Creme: a chocolate egg filled with A1 Steak Sauce and wrapped in bacon
  • Miracle Creme: a chocolate egg filled with a mixture of Miracle Whip and Grey Poupon
Happy Valley News Hour January 21 2010

Well, I haven't seen any creme eggs with misspelled ersatz cheese filling on pre-Easter sale this year but, after Kraft's re-engineering and right-sizing of Cadbury's human capital, the prophecy has come to pass. Lo, the brands have been extended and, as the prophets foretold, even so hath the synergies been promoted:

Philadelphia with Cadbury

...a blend of cool, creamy, Light Philadelphia with delicious Cadbury milk chocolate. It’s a fabulous snacking sensation. Sounds wrong, but at 86 calories per serving, it’s oh so right! 
2011 advertising copy from the Kraft food conglomerate.

To be fair, your standard creme egg was the most disgusting Cadbury product ever, so "spoiling" the chocolate-coated blob of sickly-sweet gloop with procesed cheese would have been no great crime in my book.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Confectionery Corporation

Copywriting imitates art:

"Share and Enjoy" is, of course, the company motto of the hugely successful Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Complaints division, which now covers the major land masses of three medium sized planets and is the only part of the Corporation to have shown a consistent profit in recent years.

The motto stands - or rather stood - in three mile high illuminated letters near the Complaints Department spaceport on Eadrax - "Share and Enjoy". Unfortunately its weight was such that shortly after it was erected, the ground beneath the letters caved in and they dropped for nearly half their length through the underground offices of many talented young complaints executives - now deceased. The protruding upper halves of the letters now appear, in the local language, to read "Go stick your head in a pig", and are no longer illuminated, except at times of special celebration.

At these times of special celebration a choir of over two million robots sing the company song "Share and Enjoy". Unfortunately - again - another of the computing errors for which the company is justly famous means that the robot's voices are exactly a flattened fifth out of tune and the result sounds something like this, only slightly worse....
I don't know whether the implications of recycling the motto of a fictional company famed throughout the galaxy for the poor quality of its products were lost on Galaxy Mars' copywriters:
... The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation is the primary manufacturer and supplier of androids, robots and autonomic assistants for the known universe. They are known for their catchy jingles and catchphrases, supplied by their Marketing Department. They are not, however, known for the quality of their products
The Hitchhiker's Travel Guide describes the Marketing Department of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as:
 "A bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes."
Curiously, an edition of the Encyclopedia Galactica which conveniently fell through a rift in the time-space continuum from 1000 years in the future describes the Marketing Department of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as:
"A bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came."

The chocolates, I'm happy to report, didn't malfunction in any way.

You'll be well pleased

Things will open up for you, but you need to go in with a bit of [moves fist and elbow vigorously] you know. It's no good scratching around and it's ten grand now and five grand... Minimum hundred grand. Minimum. Minimum. But the nearer you can get to two hundred grand and hold back for the event... It'll be awesome for your business. You'll be well pleased because you'll get ... you'll get photographed with David Cameron.

(now ex-) Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas

It may be sheer coincidence that this embarrassing sting was set up shortly after senior politicians decided to bite the hand that used to feed them oysters and champagne. But we can always hope that the end of the love-in between the political establishment and the Murdoch Press is leading to a bit less journalistic restraint, when it comes to NI journalists investigating dodgy deals in high places.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Scary Scarry

Childrens' illustrator Richard Scarry has populated the imaginations of millions of small children with his detailed, busy illustrations of anthropomorphic animals doing human things: bears driving trucks, the Rabbit Family in their well-appointed house, young cats, frogs and foxes at the playground, a whole menagerie of creatures going about their daily tasks in bustling cityscapes and so on.

The Offspring's had a few Scarry books from an early age, which were quite fun and rather engaging. He's also got a cushion in his bed, featuring a Richard Scarry drawing of a school bus. The passengers and driver are, of course, cartoon animals, and it's all very cheerful and innocent. Except, that is, for the bus driver:

What, in the name of Cthulhu, is that supposed to be? It looks like some sort of shaggy pig-gorilla-beaver hybrid with insanely dilated, red-rimmed eyes and an evil grin, revealing a fearsome set of incisors and a lolling red tongue. Something very wrong seems to have escaped from The Island of Dr Moreau.

Some of Scarry's other illustrations are a bit off the wall, (like the pig driving a car shaped like a giant toothbrush in Cars, Trucks and Things That Go), but I can't find anything else in his oeuvre that comes close to being as disturbing as scary bus creature. I've got three theories:

1. It isn't an original Scarry illustration, but a copy 'in the style of' Scarry, by an unknown artist who was far less accomplished.

2. The anonymous illustrator wasn't incompetent, but was in dispute with his client and slipped this monstrous apparition in as a form of revenge for not being paid, or something.

3. Maybe it was Scarry and he just happened to be totally out of his tree on some well serious shit when he drew it.

Despite us leaving this abomination on his bed, The Offspring doesn't generally wake screaming in terror in the night, so I guess that makes us Good Parents. Well, that's what we plan to tell the Child Protection Officer, when social services come round for a chat about the unfortunate incident when he was given The Human Centipede on DVD to watch before bed. How was I supposed to know it was unsuitable for children? I just thought it was some wholesome bedtime story about friendly creepy crawlies, a bit like The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Honestly, you've got to be so careful these days...

In the interests of strict accuracy, (and of not attracting the professional attention of any passing social workers), I  should point out that the events related in the penultimate paragraph of this post never actually happened and were entirely a product of the sick sense of humour which helps me get through the day.

Honestly, you've got to be so careful these days...

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Eeyore and piglet

According to New Scientist, marine biologists have been showing HD television pictures to octopi. The aqua-boffins found out some moderately interesting stuff about image perception and behaviour in cephalopods, but what was news to me was the existence of an octopus species called, rather splendidly, the gloomy octopus and a type of squid that goes by the lovely name of the dumpling squid* (which really is considerably more cute than anything with that many tentacles ought to be).

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world...

*AKA the bobtail, or stubby, squid.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Delegating like a boss

With the arrest of Rebekah Brooks dragging the whole covert media-political-police complex back into the spotlight, I've been thinking about the significance of story so far.

One of my favourite bits was James Murdoch's comically robotic testimony. What it revealed about the inner workings of the Murdochracy was, in some ways, less important than the light it shed on the standard operating procedure of dysfunctional management and unchecked authority in general.

We may never know exactly how much, or how little, the Murdochs authorised or knew, but James' carefully rehearsed testimony was an instructive reminder of how useful ambiguity and deniability can be to the powerful.

I'm reminded of Henry II's power struggle with Thomas à Becket. Henry didn't directly order anybody to get rid of Becket. He just happened to blurt out 'Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?' (or words to that effect). He couldn't be blamed if some of his underlings misinterpreted this as an order, obviously. To demonstrate how sorry he was for the "unauthorised" (but fortuitously convenient) actions of his subordinates, Henry performed public penance at Becket's tomb, where he probably said something about how it was the most humble day of his life.

Once they'd conveniently "misinterpreted" Henry's wishes, his loyal assasins were quietly dropped, like most of the News of the World employees, when they'd outlived their usefulness.

I suspect that for power-hungry and ruthless managers, effective (i.e. arse-covering) delegation is almost the precise opposite of the official version of effective delegation, as defined by

A simple delegation rule is the SMART acronym or better still, SMARTER It's a quick checklist for proper delegation. Delegated tasks must be:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Agreed
  • Realistic
  • Timebound
  • Ethical
  • Recorded
Whether you're a king, a senior manager, or a home secretary, you don't want your instructions to be specific, measurable, clearly agreed, ethical, or, God forbid, recorded, if you need to maintain  wriggle room and expect your subordinates to take your flak, should anything go wrong (or go to exactly to the plan you don't want to admit having).

If anybody with authority over you starts issuing ill-defined, ambiguous instructions, and you don't have very good reasons to trust them completely, it's probably time to start being very afraid.

Although I've no time for the Murdochs' feudal management style, I'm trying to keep a more balanced view of what's been going on than the extreme "all journalists are amoral scum", or "they're trying to muzzle press freedom" commentary that's accompanied Levison. At one extreme, apologists for the tabloid press have banged on about how it was OK for News of the World journos to bend the rules a bit, because it's in the vital public interest that journalists should be able to uncover wrongdoing and duplicity in high places.

But then you look at some of the "public interest" stories that caused all the fuss in the first place. Clive Goodman hacking the royals' voice mail? It's not as if the Royal Family are remotely important. They're just celebrities. They don't matter. They did, back in Henry II's day, when the monarch was the real power in the land, implicated in murdering the Archbishop of Canterbury, no less. But if the present Queen, in addition to her normal ceremonial duties, has engaged a hit man to take out Rowan Williams, News International haven't yet shared this interesting information with the public. Which is odd, because it's the kind of profitable story guaranteed to sell millions of copies to the sort of tabloid readers who are already convinced that the Royals had Diana knocked off and to jolt the rest of us out of our complacency about the criminal mastermind lurking on our stamps.

And no, exposing a footballer who's cheating on his wife isn't just the same as uncovering the Watergate conspiracy, however often you repeat the phrase "public interest". As for hacking into the voice mails of grieving families, anybody with the remotest flicker of empathy for other human beings can already understand that somebody who's gone through the murder of a loved one, or the disappearance of a child must be in shock, devastated, experiencing more hurt than most of us have experienced in our own lives. We don't need journalists to tell us these things - the bare facts are enough, without the grief porn. Sticking a telephoto lens into victims' faces, bullying them for statements about how they're feeling, stalking their families, or spying on their private communications isn't in the "public interest" and the journalists who do it, along with the editors and proprietors who bully them into doing it, are scum, pure and simple.

But it would be too convenient, especially for politicians and other powerful members of society who would like to evade scrutiny, to smear all journalists because some tabloid hacks have spied and bribed and bullied in pursuit of stories that were no more important than gossip. It's certainly not in the public interest to subject journalists to political pressure (remember Ivan Lewis', sinister, but fortunately doomed, plan to have naughty journalists "struck off" some central register of officially-approved news gatherers?).

From The Sunday Times' campaign on the effects of Thalidomide to Veronica Guerin, who exposed Dublin's drug barons and paid with her life for it, there have also been plenty tough, dedicated and conscientious journalists out there who have served the public interest in the true sense. They can pop up anywhere too - God knows, I don't have much time for the Daily Mail, but credit where it's due, Mail journalists kicked up enough fuss to stop the Stephen Lawrence case being quietly, and conveniently, forgotten and the world's a better place for that (I generally avoid linking to the Mail, but this is one of the rare cases when they thoroughly deserve the traffic).

A chilling effect on the pursuit of real public interest stories is one of the possible effects of Leveson. We might argue about where the bar would need to be set, but almost everybody can think of crimes or abuses of power that might be horrific enough to make even a bit of illicit surveillance forgivable, if it was the only way to expose a greater evil.

The other problem is the distraction - the human interest and symbolism of David Cameron riding the horse loaned to Rebekah Brooks by her chums in the Metropolitan Police, keeps the focus on this particular nexus of cronyism, but distracts from other, equally serious, nodes, such as the blacklist of construction workers allegedly drawn up by the police or security services and funded by a shady front organisation set up by the construction industry, in order to keep people who blow the whistle on health and safety abuses from ever getting another job in the industry.

It's hard not to relish the ritual humiliation of bullying, mendacious gossip-mongers, bent coppers and sleazy spin-doctors and it's encouraging to think that their excesses might be curbed, but if we're left with a cowed, tightly-controlled press, we might find that things get even worse, with not only media barons' particular mates escaping scrutiny, but the whole of the political establishment, its associated bureaucracy and all their cronies. At least our rulers do have to worry, at least for a moment, about the rule of law and public opinion.

A compliant "Union of Soviet Journalists"-style authority-friendly profession wouldn't be a good outcome. A situation where people as influential as Rebekah Brooks and above were subject to the rule of law, just the same as anybody who doesn't happen to be on first name terms with the prime minister or police chiefs, would be. The problem isn't the journalistic profession, but hierarchical organisations and influential networks that put the powerful, whether they're media tycoons, editors, or whoever, beyond the law.
Without effective press scrutiny, we'd be moving even further back towards the sort of feudal hierarchy that Henry II would have recognised, where those in authority only had to worry about keeping a few powerful allies, like the barons and the church, on side and the rest of the powerless population could go hang. Personally, I think we've gone too far back in that direction already, however much we kid ourselves ourselves that we've left the age of abject deference to authority behind.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Facebook and the collapse of the consumer society

Is Facebook worth $100billion? Probably not, but its unusual business model has prompted an interesting piece from Michel Bauwens, writing in Al Jazeera.

The really interesting part of Bauwens' article isn't about Facebook itself, (which will probably go into unlamented terminal decline as the intrusive, stalker-ish changes required to effectively monitor, control and monetise its users become annoying enough to make many of them abandon Facebook and adopt The Next Big Thing, whatever that turns out to be)*, but about the future of open source software, open source fabrication and shared innovation generally.

If / when the world + dog stops being fascinated by casual acquaintances giving real-time status updates about their life and every day to day event in all its minute and tedious attention to detail ('Kevin Boggis is eating a double choc chip muffin') most people will easily find new ways to fritter away their time ('I don't know what's wrong with young people nowadays, making their own entertainment on social networking sites. When I were a lad, we were all passively slumped in front of the telly watching Blue Peter, Doctor Who and Top of the Pops'). What is interesting about Facebook is that users, unlike employees, are bringing "use value", rather than "exchange value" to the party:

For thousands of years, under conditions of non-capitalist production, the majority of the working population directly produced "use value" - either for themselves as subsistence farmers, or as tributes to the managerial class of the day. It is only under capitalism that a majority of the working population produces "exchange value" by selling their labour to firms. The difference between what we are paid and what the market pays for the products we are making is the "surplus value".

What's far more interesting is the impact of open source and shared innovation on value. You have people releasing usable, valuable stuff into the public domain, sometimes not directly making any money from what they produce. Even when they monetise what they've created, open-source entrepreneurs seem to be shrinking the profit pie:

Even as the open-source economy becomes the default way to create software, and even as it creates companies that reach a revenue of more than $1bn, such as Red Hat, the overall effect is still deflationary. It has been estimated that open-source annually destroys $60bn in revenues for the proprietary sector. 

It's not just software. There are, for example, wikis out there that would once have counted as informative, saleable textbooks, or proprietary knowledge banks, but now just arise from people collaborating to share their interests and expertise, with nobody being directly paid for the value they create. A trivial example, but what happens as technology enables more of this sort of collaboration?

True open-source manufacturing might be limited to a few enthusiasts and hobbyists right now, but what's it going to do the paying-people-to-produce value model, if we ever get to the day when getting the particular widget you want doesn't necessarily involve money flowing down a long chain of value producers (retailers, wholesalers, hauliers, shipping companies, factory owners, shareholders and widget-makers in the factories, etc), but simply modest payments to an energy company and to the people involved the low-value-added supply chain of fungible raw materials which are all you need, once you've downloaded a plan for a workable widget (that was released into the public domain by a hobbyist who just enjoyed tinkering) and reproduced it on a personal / locally available fabricating machine? And I've not even mentioned the tax collectors and bureaucracies who get their cut and produce some value in return (little things like security, public health, education, law enforcement and infrastructure, that are way too small to be seen from the planet inhabited by the various Ayn Randian space cadets currently patrolling cyberspace).

That's not happening yet, but Bauwens cites low-cost Chinese "shanzhai" manufacturing (a hybrid of standard developing-world low-cost manufacture, with a bit of open-source and some outright piracy thrown in) as a crude precursor of the margin-slashing open-source future.

So we've got the availability of open-source adding use value without adding much monetary value. The thing is, for most of the last generation, for most ordinary people, value creation already seems to be partly decoupled from monetary return. Many people in developed economies have already spent a substantial portion of their lives creating lots of surplus value by adapting to new technology and working longer, harder and more productively, in return for stagnating wages, which prompts the $64,000 (or $100 billion) question:

Thus we have an exponential rise in the creation of use value, but only a linear increase in the creation of monetary value. If workers have less and less income, who can buy the commodities that are offered for sale by companies?

Governments and the financial services industry have already tried plugging the purchasing-power gap with an over-extension of credit and/or by encouraging investment in a rising property market, itself fuelled by an over-extension of credit, but that's already gone about as disastrously pear-shaped as it's possible for anything that isn't actually a pear to go. Technology seems to be increasing the amount of surplus value that can be produced without increasing the average worker's purchasing power by very much. Which calls the sustainability of the consumer society, as we know it, into question. 

Add to the wage stagnation and the exodus out of wage labour that peer-based use value creation causes, and we can see that the problem is not solvable within the present paradigm. Is there a solution?

There is - but that is for the next installment. The solution involves an adaptation of capitalism to peer production, but also opens up the avenues for a transcendence of capitalism.

I'm not convinced that the next installment will contain the blueprint of a workable solution, but I am convinced that we're living in interesting times. Read the whole of Bauwens' interesting piece here.


* I may be wrong, but don't start calling me a dimwit until Facebook's clocked up another five years of rude health.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Quality assurance

I’d like to take a moment to thank those under-appreciated heroes of marketing who’ve been on an urgent mission to ensure that, as far as humanly possible, all items of mass-market casual wear on sale anywhere in the world now have the word “authentic” written on them somewhere.

I’m deeply grateful for the reassurance that almost every piece of informal clothing that I’ve ever bought, or might conceivably think of buying, is clearly labelled, so I can be sure that I’m buying a totally authentic facsimile of something vaguely similar to something that might once have been worn by a real cowboy /1950’s high school kid / preppy Ivy League college student with perfect dentition, nice hair and improbably good-looking friends, vacationing in some idyllic Kennedy clan-style wilderness retreat in upstate Maine. Or whatever.

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. For saving the world from the tragic human consequences of inauthentic leisurewear, I salute you all.

Don’t ever stop, guys. The world can never have enough authenticity. Really.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Deficits in rule-governed behavior

The rush to medicalise new parts of the normal spectrum of human behaviour continues. Failure to defer to authority is now a treatable disorder:
Psychologist Russell Barkley, one of mainstream mental health’s leading authorities on ADHD, says that those afflicted with ADHD have deficits in what he calls “rule-governed behavior,” as they are less responsive to rules of established authorities and less sensitive to positive or negative consequences. ODD young people [i.e. those labelled with the sinister diagnosis of "oppositional defiant disorder"], according to mainstream mental health authorities, also have these so-called deficits in rule-governed behavior, and so it is extremely common for young people to have a “duel diagnosis” of AHDH and ODD...
In an earlier dark age, authoritarian monarchies partnered with authoritarian religious institutions. When the world exited from this dark age and entered the Enlightenment, there was a burst of energy. Much of this revitalization had to do with risking skepticism about authoritarian and corrupt institutions and regaining confidence in one’s own mind. We are now in another dark age, only the institutions have changed. Americans desperately need anti-authoritarians to question, challenge, and resist new illegitimate authorities and regain confidence in their own common sense.
From Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill by Bruce Levine (via).

Of course, kids need to defer to authority on occasion. Explanation and reasoned argument are better than 'because I say so', but when your five year old is about to inattentively run out into traffic, there's no time for reasoned argument - that can come later. Even in situations that aren't life threatening, there sometimes just isn't time to explain why it's necessary to be dressed in time to have breakfast and go to school, or why some piece of anti-social behaviour won't be tolerated.

Bad behaviour happens, and dealing with it is one of the challenges of parenthood. But it's also perfectly natural for children to be more interested in what they want to do than the boring stuff that parents want them to do. And, however inconvenient and annoying it might be for parents, it's also natural for children to try to assert their independence and push boundaries. As an adult you generally have experience, judgement and superior strength on your side, but this doesn't mean that you are infallible, or that a child who fails to obey your every command without question has a "disorder".

 The "disorder" label strikes me as lazy and actively harmful. Apply it to a child and it absolves parents of the need to think about the situation and to try out different strategies, or do some reality checks. Is this situation really serious enough to warrant time on the naughty step?  Is my failure to communicate to blame here? Am I the one being unreasonable? The respective answers may still be 'yes', 'no' and 'no', but the questions are still more valid than the automatic conclusion that it must be your child's fault on account of the kid's "disorder".

The dismissal of dissent as a form of mental disorder says more about the worrying normalisation of authoritarian ideology than it does about anything that might be going on in the minds of children. I'll believe in "oppositional defiant disorder" the day they start medicalising the sort of authority-friendly traits that help children to grow into servile, unquestioning, easily-managed servants of the powerful, such as an irritating over-enthusiasm for mindless group activities ("cheerleader disorder"), the unquestioning assumption that the most banal utterances of the rich and famous and every tedious detail of their lives must be of interest and importance to everybody else ("Hello! magazine disorder", or its middle-class equivalent "Sunday supplement disorder") and uncritical respect for authority ("toady syndrome").


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Dietary information

Click to embiggen the dietary information for this product...

Rocket man

For your listening pleasure, Swedish twangy guitar heroes, The Spotnicks, will now don their enormous home-home made space helmets and thrash out a creditable rendition of Soviet classic Polyushka Polye in the style of Hank Marvin and the Shadows. More accomplished and weirder that Michel Palin's attempt, but not quite as weird as this, obviously.