Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ignorance is bliss

Tonight I’m going out with George and Gill, some old MBA buddies. When I did the course I learnt but two things. Most interestingly, I found out that structured training is not as good as learning through shared experience. The principle being that those who can’t do; teach, and extrapolating that further, those who teach, probably teach things you shouldn’t do. This is born out in research; structured training is, by definition, sanitised and often promulgates outdated practice.

So, in short, people who have mastered bad practice are simply passing on bad practice badly. This is often legitimised by hackneyed theory straight out of the Idiots Guide to Management Bullshit.

On Tuesday, we had a meeting which was supposed to be answering a fairly fundamental question – why do we put so much effort into producing something which has no obvious benefit. It was, instead, hijacked by a facilitator hell-bent on ignoring the issue at hand. Instead he put us through as many mind and consciousness expanding exercises as the time permitted.

It’s very much in vogue to punctuate any group meeting with a series of exercises that take you ‘outside the box’ and get the left and right side of your brain working in tandem. First we did some collective self reflection. Where on Tuckman's model of team performance did we think we were? Tuckman invented four stages in team building – which are something like Forming, Norming, Yawning and pawning your awning – the point at which team performance collapses to such an extent that is becomes necessary to liquidate equity that may exist in any light weight canvas structure (including small marquees and bivouacs).

Following this, we indulged in some individual reflection, having to write on post-it notes (obviously) how we thought we were seen and, on a different colour, how we would like to be viewed. My temptation was to write “Likes to eat cheese” and “Likes to eat chips”. I bottled out, which was a shame, given my Chief Exec put “Change agent who doesn’t listen” and “Change agent who does listen, but ignores you anyway”.

Then we had lunch, then we discussed for the briefest possible time, the question at hand. Then we had coffee. That out the way, we did some more collective reflection (same exercise, to see whether things had changed – they hadn’t) followed by some more individual reflection (why our preferred and real perceptions were different – probably down to my relationship with my dad or something). Then we went home with the central question unanswered.

The second thing I learnt in my MBA? Don’t eat the canteen’s Cornish pasties.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

In a parallel universe not so far away

I used to write about the Little Publishing Company on the Hill. It’s where I spent nearly four years goofing around with a little gang of twenty something post graduates; Lizard, Ravey Davey, Catherine, Chuckles and Joella. I keep in touch with Chuckles, and Joella although that’s through her blog. Despite the passing years, I’ve learnt that Joella and I still have but one thing in common; we are both utterly indifferent to each others’ interests. She can’t be arsed with football, and I’m not bothered about Women’s issues. It’s probably why we got on. I remember her, the gang, our antics and our traumas with huge fondness. It was nearly ten years ago.

The Little Publishing Company on the Hill was a local company with local people having big international successes. Its success attracted a big ugly Dutch corporate who bought the place out, made its millionaire founder more of a millionaire and rolled in some big ugly corporate executives to run the place. The old directors; chancers, charlatans and lunatics the lot of them, were eventually run out of town. The corporate bled the place dry and closed it down.

The other day I was being harangued by a salesman who was trying to get me to spend £5,000 advertising on a website they hadn’t launched, couldn’t show me and had no marketing materials to support. I Googled my old boss’ name to see if I could find out what she’d up to… and whether she still had translucent skin and wears clashing primary colours in animal prints.

It didn’t take long to find her. She’s started up an event management company with most of the directors from the old charabanc. I looked up their website, and it turns out they’ve moved back into the Offices on the Hill. The circle is complete… perhaps somewhere there’s a next generation Ruffles mucking around writing inappropriate stories about staff members and trying to break email records.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I dig Marvel and DC, I dig Run DMC, Renegade Soundwave and AC/DC

I am not a little bit country, nor am I a little bit Rock n Roll. I am, however, a quite a lot Old Skool. People my age can start to get set in their ways. Often, it seems, they settle into a stereotypical social construct of marriage, kids, mortgage, country pubs, golf handicaps, Katie Melua, Joss Stone and Beau Vista Social Club as the beginning and end of world music chic. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants all that, but it’s not me (in the main) that said, I am becoming set in my ways, but my ways are Old Skool.

The greatest trainers ever are Adidas Superstars, the greatest football (let’s face it, we all have one) is either the Adidas Tango, or the Mexico 70 vintage. DJ’s use Technics 1200’s and vinyl, anything else is just cheating. Hip hop should sample James Brown and be funky. Football should kick-off on a Saturday at 3pm.

It’s not that I’m closed to new music, fashion, and football kick-off times, but I’ve experienced my best of breed, anything new has to fight hard to surpass it. I’m very comfortable with this.

On Thursday as I descended into Wycombe (topographically and spiritually) at some god-awful hour in the morning I was listening to James’ Gold Mother – a classic from my Sixth Form. I’d stumbled across it in my CD rack and thought it was worth a whirl.

I found that I was comforted by it, I remember Sit Down being played at parties and discos when I wore long sleeved Happy Mondays t-shirts and had floppy hair. There’s a live version of it on the CD (I originally had the tape, which didn’t have Sit Down on it, that was done after it became a hit, fact fans). At the end the band finish and the crowd just sing the chorus over and over again. It was like a lullaby, completely soothing.

Then I realised that the reason I’m so comfortable within being stuck in my ways, is that it’s safer there than it is in the real world. Five minutes later I was in the car park, first in, again, having been last out, again. It was like emerging from blissful hibernation, the stresses and strains returned like a mallet to the head.

Or a Mallet’s Mallet, if you’re really Old Skool.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

All celebrities are bastards

On the way back from Toronto we saw bugged eyed Arian German tennis playing legend Boris Becker careering down Terminal 4 departures towards a flight. This spot was all the more significant, according to Sara, because he was carrying tennis rackets.

Becker is a legendary tabloid bastard, doing something to some woman in some broom cupboard, or something. That shouldn’t make him special because all celebrities are bastards. Look at it, to be a celebrity you have to do something that distorts accepted norms; actors pretend to be other people, sportspeople play games for money, Jodie Marsh wears no clothes. Do these things in a normal job and you’d be fired.

To want to pervert a norm like this you have to have guts, you have to want to do something most people typically won’t do. You have to have an unstinting self-belief that people will want to pay you to distort these norms. You’ll have a belief that people will pay you to do something they actually want to do. More than anything they have to resist the immense social pressures that you’re subjected to whenever you step out of line form a social norm.

I recently saw Tony Hawks do a corporate gig, he turned up late, sat at the top table with all the VIPs, ate a £60 a head meal for free, did twenty minutes on stage in which he swore when he was asked not to, took the piss out of the main speaker and host of the evening and left several thousand pounds richer.

Funny bastard.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Broken dreams

Emma managed to commit the ultimate faux pas this morning by crippling the fragile ego of an adolescent boy, I think she got away with it though.

Phoning her friend Jo:

Emma “Hi Jo it’s Emma”
Jo’s son Tom “It’s Tom actually”
Emma “Oh, I’m sorry Tom, you sound just like your mum, not that you want to hear that. You have a very strong and manly voice... and so does your mum.”

Thursday, March 10, 2005

National treasures

A week since my last confession…in my absence, I see two of our great national institutions have taken a kicking in the last week.

First Delia Smith is derided for her impromptu pitch-side tirade at Norwich City fans. Why is this news? Because she is a) mumsy b) middle class and c) a woman at a football match. Typically, a) gritty b) working class c) men who rant at football matches are considered passionate “football people” with infectious enthusiasm and drive. Deels, on the other hand, is just a silly woman who’d got a bit squiffy on a white wine spritzer. Poor love.

A few days later Katie Price, wisely dropping the Jordan brand for risk of it being sullied, was humiliated during her Eurovision attempt. Her skin slowly turning an odd shade of taupe, she waddled around the stage in a pink catsuit screeching some sub-Arabian pop catastrophe with a rubbish subtext along the lines of “I’m revealing the real me”. Yup, big norks and a lot of luck.

We should preserve these woman in formaldehyde and be done with it.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Hey you!

As he carved a career as the Internet generation’s Tony Hart, I bet Neil Buchanan thought he was the cock of the Number 73 alumni. The fact he had his own show, Art Attack, shadowed anything Sandi Toksvig (scary site, huh?) managed. Numerous appearances on smarty-pants TV and radio shows and she still never really transcended her image as a poor man’s female Scandinavian lesbian Stephen Fry. In fact, The Sandwich Quiz was pretty much her finest hour. As for the rest of the gang, well, they just fried in Buchanan’s after burn didn’t they. Didn’t they?

Buchanan was the bollocks, and he knew it. His bouncy curly mullet, his neat logo’ed pullovers, he’s the (40+ year old) boy next door. Mums all over the country could leave their children in his capable hands, safe in the knowledge that the worst he could do was suggest that using different colours of tissue paper can make a rudimentary stained glass window. Buchanan was the only true survivor of the much underrated Saturday morning show of lore, the man, the winner, numero uno. Goodnight Vienna.

That is until rollerskating dad-candy Andrea Arnold rocked up to the Oscars and bagged herself an Best Short Film award for Wasp. Zoinks!

What next? Gaz Top wins a Nobel Peace Prize for single handedly placating Iraqi insurgents through the introduction of GCSE Spanish and speed dating events?

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