Poet at Work

23 Mar

When business is slow, I know what to do
Get up from my desk and go to the loo
And when I am half way through doing my thing
It’s a hundred to one the darned phone will ring

Can’t you hang on before bending my ear?
On-time delivery’s happening here
Yes, customer service with me’s number one
Even when number two’s being done

Having noticed that there is not enough poetry written about work these days, I have determined to remedy that. Please feel free to add verses.

A Written Warning to Hall and Oates

6 Mar

It’s a written warning to anodyne seventies and eighties pop duo Hall and Oates for their legal action against Brooklyn based breakfast food producer Early Bird Foods & Co, claiming that their granola blend “Haulin’ Oats” infringes their brand name.
Come on chaps, don’t get all steamed up and melt your hair gel. What could be more suitable as a tribute to you and your music than granola? Just call the folks over at Early Bird and ask them to make sure that their product is not only nut-free, but bland, stale and hard to stomach.

Suis moi jusq’au bout de la nuit

14 Feb

If I ever write the most beautiful and moving song of my generation, and the smart money is betting that it’s only a matter of time, I will deliver it to the rapt audience with great simplicity. My hands will be in my pockets and I won’t move at all. When you have something as good as my song is going to be, histrionic gestures, or indeed any gestures, serve only to get in the way of the emotional impact.

If someone in the vast arena accidentally drops a pin during my song, hundreds of faces will turn to him, fingers raised to their lips. Nobody will want to miss a word, a note or a heartbeat.

In the light of the foregoing, it should be no surprise that on Saint Valentine’s Day I find myself strangely drawn to this old video of Serge Gainsbourg and Franco-Danish songbird Anna Karina singing Gainsbourg’s “Ne Dis Rien.”

Couldn’t be simpler, or cornier, or sexier. Of course, it helps that I can identify with Gainsbourg, We are both ugly chaps with big noses who seem to have somehow scored with a beautiful girl from a foreign land with long dark hair and a way of smiling with her eyes. That’s all you need. No fancy camera work, just two people dancing, apparently in a bar, barely moving. You’re a lucky man, Serge, and so am I.

Ce jour de Saint Valentin, me suivrais tu  jusqu’au bout de la nuit comme à Bruxelles en 1992?

It’s Official – All Country Music is the Same

3 Feb

Well, an awful lot of it is anyway, as brilliantly illustrated by today’s recipient of a platinum performance bonus, Sir Mashalot. But before we get to him and his remarkable video, let’s take a trip in a battered pick-up truck down memory lane.

The year is 1990, or it might have been 1991, and the place is the Sandy Ridge Bar & Grill in Hickory, North Carolina. I used to hang out there quite often in those days, although I always seemed to miss the nights folks got shot. There was a jukebox in the corner and the song that me and my friends listened to most is You Never Even Called Me by My Name by David Allen Coe. Towards the end of the song, Mr. Coe takes a break from singing to tell a little story of how the writer of the song, Steve Goodman, told him that he reckoned that he had written the perfect country and western song. Coe wrote back to him that no, it wasn’t the perfect country and western song because it didn’t say anything at all about momma, or trains or trucks or prison or getting drunk. Goodman replied with the last verse to the song, which you can find at minute 3:05 in the video.

In case you can’t be bothered to listen that far, here’s the verse:

Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pick-up truck
She got run over by a damned old train

A while later I learned that David Allen Coe was coming to play in Hickory. This was pretty big news, because nobody ever came to play in Hickory. So I snapped up a ticket and turned up at Yesterday’s night club for the evening’s entertainment. It started late and turned out to be more of a brawl than a concert. Coe appeared to be drunk or stoned and had a hard time making it to the end of a song. This being my first time at an event of this type, I thought perhaps this was how country and western concerts were supposed to be. The rest of the audience seemed to share my patience for the most part, perhaps hoping that he might sober up before the end of the evening. However, at last one guy had had enough – or maybe he had an appointment or had just got a call that his wife was about to give birth. Whatever the reason, he rose to leave, leading the incensed balladeer to leap from the stage, displaying surprising agility for one so obese, intoxicated and heavily medallioned, and proceed to administer his own unique brand of response to customer feedback. Or at least he would have, were it not for the intervention of the security guards. This brought the evening’s proceedings to a close.

It is worth noting here that Coe’s other hit was a little number entitled If That Ain’t Country, I’ll Kiss Your Ass, so perhaps the offending spectator had conveyed, whether through body language or maybe an ironically arched eyebrow, that in his opinion, Mr. Coe was not country and the latter was merely attempting to deliver on his promise. If so, I would have to strongly disagree. I have seldom witnessed anything before or since as country as Mr. Coe.

Yesterday’s and the Sandy Ridge Bar are long gone, the latter forced to close by one too many shootings, but the fond memories remain.

But back to Sir Mashalot. Remember him, he’s the one getting the performance bonus for his proof that, unlike in the good old days of David Allen Coe and the Sandy Ridge Bar and Grill, all country songs these days are so formulaicly interchangeable as to actually be the same song, right down to the guitar solos. I’m going to let this amazing Youtube video do the talking.

If that is country, I’ll kiss your ass.

 

Talking through his hat – if he had one

22 Jan

Every year two events take place, which on the surface bear a passing resemblance to each other.

State of the UnionIn a country that prides itself on it’s no nonsense, get-it-done ethos and professes little time for ritual trappings, pomp and ceremony, a man stands up to deliver a speech outlining his lofty ideals and proposals for the coming legislative year. His soaring rhetoric is broadcast live and analyzed for days or even weeks by various pundits and talking heads. None of the proposals contained in the speech will ever happen.

A few months later, in a country with a whole tourist industry built on the desire of people from the first country to see men in bright red coats and silly furry hats remain totally motionless for hours, an old lady in a silly shiny hat, from whom the first country fought a war to free itself, sits virtually motionless for an hour in a very big chair and reads out a legislative program as if it were a shopping list. Nobody pays it much attention. Virtually all of it will happen in the coming year.

For people in the first country, if they ever become frustrated by how pointless the splendid occasion they are witnessing really is, the answer is simple. To render it less ridiculous, and take a step towards a functioning democracy, make the guy wear a silly hat. After all, the last time their democracy worked, they were all wearing wigs.

Apologies for not providing a photograph of the Queen’s speech to Parliament. I couldn’t find one that was royalty-free.

The Broadway Hotel Approach to Bad Reviews

21 Nov

It’s a well deserved performance bonus to the management of the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool for their outside the box thinking on dealing with bad reviews on Trip Advisor.

According to the BBC, the small print in their booking form contains the following innovative wording:
“Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not.
“For every bad review left on any website, the group organiser will be charged a maximum £100 per review.”

A glance at the hotel’s page at Trip Advisor affords a glimpse of how the hotel is viewed by travelers. ““Fawlty Towers it’s not – at least that looked clean” is one of the less derogatory comments. The words “filthy,” “disgusting” and “hotel inspector” pop out from the page.

Two of these travelers were Tony and Jan Jenkinson, whose forthright description of the hotel began by calling it a “filthy, dirty rotten stinking hovel run by muppets” and concluded with the observation, “If you are offered this place to stay for a fortnight for 10p, you are being robbed!!” Tony and Jan were rewarded for their diligence in warning fellow travelers with an unexpected charge of £100 on their credit card bill, on top of the £36 that their one night stay cost (I think most stays are one night).

Oh, Tony and Jan – why didn’t you read the small print?

Outside the box thinking

When asked about this unusual policy, a tongue-in-cheek John Greenbank, North Trading Standards Area Manager, said it was a “novel” way to prevent bad reviews. But I think Mr. Greenbank has got it all wrong. At £100 per bad review, why on earth would the Broadway Hotel’s owners wish to prevent them? Under this ingenious business plan, the more bad reviews they get, the more their profits soar. This is exactly the kind of outside the box thinking that British business so often lacks. As I write this there are 146 “Terrible” reviews on Trip Advisor. That’s £14,600. That’s not to mention the 24 “Poor” reviews for which, I think we can agree, management would be entirely justified in charging at least eighty quid each.

What’s good for the Broadway, however, is not so good for others. It is a feature of Trip Advisor that, when you select a particular hotel, a new window opens with the title “Similar hotels.” My heart goes out to the Kings Hotel, the By the Beach Hotel and the intriguingly named Sinatra’s Hotel, all of which popped up in this window of shame. Given their generally positive reviews, they do not deserve such ignominy.

My New Review Policy

All of this gives me an idea. Taking a leaf out of the Broadway Hotel’s check-in register, I intend to implement a similar policy to squash unwelcome and unflattering reviews of my books. The following policy will be displayed prominently on this website and printed in the books.

“Despite the fact that my wife quite liked my book and my mother said she supposed it was alright, if you liked that kind of thing, you and other tasteless bozos like you may not like it. For every bad review left on any website the reviewer will be charged a maximum of £100 or $156 per review.”

It is a source of great regret that I can’t think of a way to apply the policy retrospectively to people like “Emily” who started her Amazon review of The Rise and Fall of T. John Dick with disarming frankness by stating, “I hated this book,” and proceeded to give it one star, despite adding that the author was “a strong writer” and it was in fact the main character that she didn’t like. Those are pretty words, Ms. Henlein, but you still gave it one star. That will be $156 please. No, just a minute – you also posted the review to Goodreads and Library Thing. That will be $468 altogether. A check will be fine, thanks. Contact me for my mailing address.

A year or so ago, I told readers about Haziq, the fourteen year old boy in Malaysia who awarded one star to The Management Secrets of T. John Dick at Goodreads. The experience of reading my book appears to have soured him on the whole reading thing, so that one year on, this is still the only book he has ever read. Time to stump up, Haziq, and yes we accept Malaysian ringgits.

Of course, it won’t be as easy to implement this policy as it was for the Broadway. Except for those who purchase from this website, I don’t actually have access to credit card data. However, I am working on an email to Amazon right now. I’m sure they will be interested in this new revenue stream, from which they will demand a hefty cut.

And you can rest assured that, in order to make the most of this exciting new income opportunity, I will be careful to ensure that any books I write in the future will be even worse than those I have produced to date. Are you ready, Emily?

 

A note to anyone completely lacking a sense of humor. First, what a nice surprise to see you here! Second, I am not serious, I will not really charge you for a bad review. I feel it is important to make this clear to you as you belong to the group of readers most likely to leave such a review.

Keeping Romance Alive in California

20 Oct

If you are a college student in California, a new “Yes Means Yes” law requires that you obtain “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement” from a prospective sexual partner.  Implied consent, the absence of a “no” or the fact that she is making bedroom eyes at you will no longer be sufficient, and reliance on such outmoded  indications that she is in the mood for love could land you in big trouble.

While the intention of the new legislation is admirable, it seems likely to have a chilling effect on campus frolics and deprive many amorous young ladies of romance, as potential suitors, fearful of the prospect of having to provide definitive proof of consent, are scared to come within ten yards of them. Those who are bold enough to overcome that fear may well stumble over how exactly to obtain consent that will stand up in any disciplinary proceedings if things turn sour.

That’s where I come in, Anxious to keep romance alive, I am providing to the college gals of California, free of charge, this handy Coital Consent Form. No need for awkward or embarrassing conversations with this little beauty in your purse. Just place it on the bar as you leave to powder your nose. By the time you come back, he should just about have it completed.

 

State of California Coital Consent Form

Thank you for your interest in having coitus with me. So that I may properly process your application, please answer the following questions accurately and completely.

1. Name:
please provide two forms of ID. Acceptable documents include passport, government issued driver’s license; cellphone junk shots are not considered acceptable.

2. Address:

3. Age:
Must be over 18 and below 26 years old (but see 5 below)

4. Race:
I am an equal opportunity sexual partner.

5. Income:
(a) Tips from part-time job at off-campus pizza joint
(b) Less than $10,000 p.a.
(c) $10,000 to $50,000
(d) $50,000 to $100,000
(e) Over $100,000
(f) Don’t know. I just get these regular checks from my trust fund
Note: if you answered (e) or (f), please disregard question 3. Actually, you can disregard all the other questions too.

6. Star Sign.
If you are a Sagittarius, I’m sorry, but you are ineligible to have sexual relations with me.

7. Please attach two references from recent sexual partners.

8. If unable to provide references, please state reason. (Check one box only)
(a) My previous sexual partners think I am a creep and want nothing to do with me.
(b) This is kind of embarrassing, but, well, you’ll be my first.
Note: answering (b) does not result in automatic disqualification. I might find it sweet.
(c) I can’t remember the names of my previous sexual partners.
(d) My previous sexual partners are members of congress and revealing their names could be very dangerous for me. Haven’t you see House of Cards?

9. I have checked my schedule for tomorrow and have no urgent appointments or commitments that will necessitate me sneaking out before you are awake.

10. Check any of the following statements which you like to apply to me in furtherance of your application:
(a) I think you are pretty and would really like to know you better.
(b) I’m not staring at your boobs. I’m staring at your heart.
(c) Didn’t we take a class together? I could have sworn we had chemistry.
(d) If you were a booger I’d pick you first.
(e) I’m not trying to impress you or anything, but… I’m Batman!

11. Are you now or have you ever been someone who farts in bed.

12. In not more than 200 words, describe why you think you would be a suitable sexual partner for someone as wonderful as me.
Write quickly – you only have until I get back from the restroom.

Vote for Augustus Gump for the FIFA Executive Committee

26 Sep

A performance bonus to UEFA president Michel Platini, who is refusing to return the $25,000 watch he received from the Brazilian Football Association at this year’s World Cup. To be fair, Mr. Platini was not the only one to receive the lavish gift in a goodie bag left for him in his hotel room. Other recipients included 32 heads of football associations, 28 members of FIFA’s executive committee and 5 other members of South American associations. But what has earned Mr. Platini his performance bonus is this quote.

“We receive many watches, just like journalists – you receive many watches. Just like the associations receive watches. Yes, yes, you receive watches occasionally. Every now and again, you do receive watches.”

Some might claim to detect behind the eloquence of this statement a suggestion of just how detached the bloated plutocrats running football are from the realities of the game and indeed the world, but I would contend that Michel has hit on a universal truth. Every now and again you do receive watches, I myself received one only last year for my birthday, and I am jolly glad that it didn’t come with an envelope containing $24,975, which would have left me open to allegations that my family was trying to buy influence with me.

Before that, I received a watch from my grandmother in or around 1983. I don’t know how much it was worth, but it had great sentimental value until I lost it in 1984. Since then, I have been terrified of wearing anything of value on my wrist. The current $25 beauty, which replaced a $5 model bought at a market in France that actually stopped working while I was still at the stall, is easily the most expensive I have had in thirty years.

Free Pies

Which leads me nicely to the point I am trying to make. In the interests of economy, I think that I should be appointed to the FIFA Executive Committee. Think of the savings on watches. According to the BBC, the budget for watches to give to delegates to the FIFA Congress in Sao Paolo in June was $140,000. If elected, I promise to trim that budget by 90% for the next congress. I have already picked out quite a nice model at Walmart. The savings could be passed on to fans in the form of free Bovril and pies.

If my proposal is rejected, I have an alternative suggestion. Great economies of scale could be achieved by standardizing on an official FIFA watch to be given to all delegates. It would include several FIFA-specific  features, such as an alarm to notify you when it is time to meet a man about a bribe, a built-in fan to keep you cool during the two minute walk from your limousine to your air-conditioned VIP box at the Qatar World Cup and a voice-activated dictionary containing useful phrases such as “in a plain brown envelope would be best, Ivan.”

Vote for Gump

So I am making a plea for your support. I know it’s a long shot. As someone who has actually played football (badly), knows a little about it  and has a deep love of the game, I am hardly FIFA Executive material, but please don’t let that stop you. Use the comment section below to indicate your support. If I can get even a couple of actual football fans behind me, I will already be more popular amongst those who care about the game than Sepp Blatter.

And that watch from my Granny that I lost in 1994 – it went missing at Old Trafford during this Manchester United vs Dundee United match in the European Cup Winners Cup. How many current FIFA Executive Committee members can say they lost one of their hundreds of watches in such honourable circumstances.

 

Now about that performance bonus for Michel Platini. What can we give him? How about a nice watch?

Win an autographed copy of “The Management Secrets of T. John Dick”

16 Sep
Claude and Millicent

– Good Heavens, Claude! Is this a genuine signed Augustus Gump?
– That’s right, Millicent. Now, are you sure you still want to marry Gerald?

Impress the opposite sex* with your sophistication and be the envy of your friends with this handsome paper and glue bound, prestige paperback volume sitting on the mahogany shelves of your study.

Smile benignly over your pipe as visitors gasp in admiration as they pull the book from the shelf, open its crisp pages and are greeted by an elegant full color, blue or black ink signature.But don’t let them keep their grubby hands on it for too long. Treat it with care. It is an investment, or at least it would be if any investing was required, beyond a few seconds of your time.

To enter, just click here.

The link will take you to the contest on the Management Secrets of T. John Dick Facebook page.

3d Cover TJ1 No Refl You’ll be asked to like the page, unless you’ve already liked it, of course and, if you want to increase your chances still further, you’ll be offered an extra entry just for following this blog. You can do that over to the right of this page, unless you already follow it if course, in which case, congratulations on your exquisite taste. You are just the kind of person we need to win the contest and keep this extraordinary objet d’art out of the hands of the kind of riff-raff that might otherwise win it.

* - Or the same sex, of course. Augustus Gump is quite comfortable with being an idol of that section of the gay community that spends money on books.

Pumpy the Possum, Max the Moose and the Vampire Squid

5 Sep

Anyone who has read my books will know that I have a soft spot for idiotic advertisements and promotional strategies. In attempts to boost the sales of his company’s pumps, T. John Dick has come up with campaigns centered on photographs of the runner-up in the Miss North Carolina pageant grasping one of those pumps in a suggestive manner, pictures of himself riding a unicorn, and even dropping a pump from the top of the factory building to display its unbreakable quality, seriously damaging the company president’s car with the resultant shrapnel. Most readers’ favorite, though, is Pumpy the Possum, a cartoon strip featuring a possum in superhero garb who solves pump-related problems for a grateful technician called Hydraulic Harry.

Meet Max the Moose

Max the MooseRidiculous? Well, of course, but the strange thing is that Pumpy the Possum was inspired by an actual promotional campaign. It was designed to sell security alarm systems and pinned its hopes for doing so on a cartoon strip starring a moose called Max. Which makes you wonder, “Where do they get these ideas?”

The answer, it seems to me, is by consulting advertising agencies, such as TJ’s cronies at Makem Paimore and Lovett, who have no understanding of the industry and apply cutesy ideas from unrelated, often more consumer-focused fields. The results can be disastrous and damage the brands they are intended to promote.

I was reminded of this the other day, when watching Everton play Chelsea in the English Premier League. At the end of the first half, a little banner appeared next to the score at the top of the screen and the commentator dutifully announced that we were now entering the two minutes of Progressive Insurance stoppage time. Full marks to the TV channel or the Premier League for managing to sell sponsorship for such an unlikely asset, but who at Progressive Insurance made the decision that being associated with these prestigious two minutes would enhance the company’s image? “Progressive Insurance – proud sponsor of those couple of minutes added on to the end of the half for injuries and other stoppages.”

I find this development worrying for another reason. How long will it be before referees come under pressure to add an extra minute or two in order to boost the value of the sponsorship. Match results could be be changed by goals scored in time added on purely to allow us to enjoy the Progressive Insurance logo a little longer. And it won’t stop there. Soon we’ll have the corner kick brought to you by Burger King, the Hamburger Helper Handball and the Pfizer pfenalty.

At least this advertisement’s damage was probably limited to Progressive’s advertising budget. A few minutes into the second half, with an exciting match in full flow, part of the screen was obscured by an advertisement for Microsoft’s Surface tablet. I’m sure that the Surface is a great product, but having the actual playing surface obscured by the word “Surface” while viewers are trying to follow the game, constitutes an own goal, serving only to irritate potential buyers.

Cuddly Vampire Squid

Perhaps the most counter-productive ad of all, however, is one that pops up relentlessly before videos I try to play on the BBC website and elsewhere. For a variety of reasons, Goldman Sachs is one of the most reviled companies on the planet and many people agree with Matt Taibi’s famous 2009 description of the investment bank in Rolling Stone Magazine as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Given this unsalvageable reputation, surely it would make more sense to eschew attempts at rehabilitation in favor of keeping a low profile. Few people are going to abandon their revulsion towards the “vampire squid” under the influence of a feel good ad purporting to show how, thanks to Goldman Sachs, a company filled with hard-working Americans, some in hard hats, doing real work “makes progress,” such as this one.

I’m not judging whether the content of the ad is technically true. I just wonder whether a company like Goldman Sachs can ever achieve a warm fuzzy feeling amongst the general populace, while still perceived by large sections of that populace to be misleading investors and paying obscene salaries on the back of the taxpayer. For me at least – and I expect that I am not alone – the attempt to recast a vampire squid as a cuddly cuttlefish just seems to be in bad taste. Compared to this, those Pumpy the Possum ads of TJ’s don’t seem so bad after all.

Maybe they could try a cartoon strip with Sid the Vampire Squid.

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