It’s a dangerous world….

The Advertising Standards Authority managed to drag a wry smile out of me this morning as I read the news that they’d banned an advert for Heinz Baked Beans because it might encourage children to hurt themselves.

The story is here : and the advert is based around playing the rhythm of a song on full and empty bean tins. Now, apart from the risk of such tympanic efforts entering in to the nation’s psyche like the ‘Heinz Beanz Song’ from my childhood:

“A million housewives every day,

Pick up a tin of beans and say

Beanz meanz Heinz”

I was hard pressed to think what harm could come to kids from playing the Heinz Bongoes. OK, particularly hard pressed parents might throw the odd tin at their offspring to get them to stop, but that was it…but then it was made clear that the risks to kids were from possibly cutting their fingers on the open ends of a tin.

Now, at first glance I thought – fair enough.  Then I started thinking,

“No. Not fair enough. The world is a tough place. Kids need to learn that occasionally you’ll get cut, scratched, grazed, burned and bruised when you play and learn.  Don’t take dumb risks, but don’t live in a cotton wool world where folks try and stop everything happening to you.”

Because if you try and control the small stuff that gives a painful reminder of the dangers of the world, when the big, uncontrollable, nasty shit comes along out of nowhere on a Saturday afternoon the kids have no experience of what it’s like to get whacked. More importantly, they have no way to judge risk; a world in which you never get exposed to mild risk is not a healthy world.

There’s a lovely line from the god-like alien ‘Q’ in Star Trek: The Next Generation, where he is explaining something about the universe to Captain Picard who’s just had a VERY narrow squeak:

If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it’s not for the timid.

He’s right. A world perfectly safe and with no risk couldn’t have generated the human race; and certainly won’t generate a healthy generation of children.  There’s a big difference between being safe and being timid; between taking stupid risks and entering for this year’s Darwin Awards and engaging in an activity that has a small amount of risk as a by-product

There was an interesting study done about the ‘range’ of children today and over the last 100 years – the maximum distance that a child was from home during their free time and play.  It was quite un-scientific and probably non-representative but suggested that a radius of 10 or more miles was not uncommon a hundred years ago; my personal radius in the 1960s/70s was down to about 5 miles or so; today in many cases it’s less than a mile, and little outside.

Activities are often now virtual; the biggest risk of harm is likely to be a pulled thumb muscle or repetitive strain injury.

So, here’s the start of a helpful guide for children of all ages to be used when adverts don’t contain the necessary health and safety small print.

  1. Sharp stuff can cut you. Really sharp stuff can cut deeply. So can paper. Watch those books.
  2. Hot things burn you.
  3. Anything electrical can potentially hurt you badly. Don’t screw around with anything bigger than a 9 volt PP3.
  4. Don’t eat anything that isn’t a recognised food.
  5. Jumping from heights has a risk of twisted ankles.

The list can go on and on….but you get the picture. It is a potentially risky world out there and play is one of the ways in which we get our abilities to function in the world honed to a fine point.

We never really finish learning; as Kipling said in ‘The God of the copy-book headings‘ “And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;”

May your day be full of small, manageable risks and may your bumps and bruises be safe ones.

WARNING – Nothing in this blog post should be taken as advocating risky activities. All safety guidelines should be read as humorous asides. (OK…legal guys…is that OK?)


The knees…a Friday afternoon design….

When I started coding, over 30 years ago, the backup and restore code in one version of Microsoft DOS was quite grim.  In particular, it would allow you to backup your massive 10Mb hard disc (yes, 10 MEGAbyte) onto multiple floppies….and then fail when you tried to restore somewhere around disc 12 or 13.  After a while you got used to splitting your backups in to sets so that you never got near the magic failure number….

We used to joke that the code had either been written or designed on a Friday afternoon, when the software guys in Seattle were more worried about the weekend ahead than doing a good job.  I know this is grossly unfair; at the time I was working in a culture that had Friday lunchtime as the ‘go to the pub for a few beers and be chill when you got back to the office’ day, so I was probably projecting!

As the years have gone by I’ve still used the phrase ‘a Friday afternoon design’ as an indication that something seemed a bit botched or half-arsed.  And today I offer what is for me one of the major Friday afternoon jobs I’ve encountered, committed by evolution itself.  The human knee.  (Yes, as a Christian I am allowed to believe in evolution – I think that God keeps things simple where He can and evolution is a great way – usually – of getting an optimal solution for biological problems).

I have heard it said that the problems that human beings encounter with our lower backs and our knees are caused by 3 issues:

  1. The knee is prone to injury – partially due to (3)
  2. We in the west tend towards porky and so put excess weight on back and knees.
  3. We’re probably a million years or so early in wandering around on our hind legs, and so they’re not quite ready for it yet.

Well, there’s nothing I can do about (3) and I definitely suffer from (1) and (2). For the last 15 years – courtesy of an injury acquired playing rugby in my teens – my knees have been rather dodgy. They don’t bend as they should, they make noises that they shouldn’t, and they ache like buggery when it’s too damp, too cold, too hot – my knees are ‘Goldilocks Knees’ – they need everything to be ‘just right’.

I’ve had physiotherapy, and drugs, and these days get a lot of relief from exercise (within reason) and something I call my Turmeric Gunk which has been a God-send.  Despite appearances, you do eat this stuff, rather than smear it all over the afflicting joint….

My knees have provided comic-relief to numerous children; the clunking noise when I bend my knee has often been greeted with cries of ‘Do it again, Uncle Joe’….when the children concerned start getting clunky joints themselves, I’ll propel myself to them in my wheelchair and wheeze ‘Do it again!’ back!

They’ve also provided me with excuses as to why I can’t play horsey any more – the knees just won’t forgive me!

I was therefore amused and gratified at the latest US advertising campaign for Amazon.  It features a priest and an imman meeting up and working out the perfect gift for each other….

This has particular resonance for me; earlier on this year I was on placement as part of my Reader training at a ‘High Anglican’ church where there’s a lot of kneeling and genuflecting involved. If you’ve never genuflected, trust me – it’s hard going with dodgy knees – there’s always that thought that you might not actually manage to straighten up again!

I spent a few mornings with some serious strapping on my knees!

Perhaps I need to follow the advice from this advert and get some knee supports.  And whilst I’m down there praying, maybe I’ll just add a little comment to God asking whether evolution couldn’t have been directed a little to give us better knees…..


Dandelion Breaks and how to avoid them

I have always been a great fan of Berke Breathed’s cartoon strip ‘Bloom County’. For those of you whose life is as yet incomplete, lacking reporting from the strange world of Bloom County, I refer you to where the current ongoing daily adventures of the characters can be found.

Originally Bloom County stopped being published in 1989 or thereabouts, and was reactivated in 2015, and details the adventures of, amongst other characters, a penguin called Opus, a dodgy, sleazy lawyer called Steve and a monster-packed anxiety closet.

But for me, the most important thing to come from Bloom County was the concept of the ‘Dandelion Break’.  When life became too intense for Opus, he would decamp to the top of a local ‘grassy knoll’ and sit among the dandelions for a while until he gained his composure.  Here’s the strip in which I first saw the concept used…


I doubt a month goes by without me resorting to a virtual dandelion break of some sort.  In fact, with my inability at gardening I can, if needed, indulge in a real life dandelion break for several months of the year by simply going in to my back garden.

What’s lovely about this particular script is that whilst the details in that first panel have changed, the course of Opus to resolve the anxiety is still valid today…turn off the tech.  For those of us old enough to have been around the first time, the list of news stories being broadcast is a litany of anxiety from the 1980s – the old Soviet Union, teh Lebanon, Central America, Northern Ireland, the Falklands – the great Cold War, Post-Imperial, Contra-Irangate hotch-potch of issues that used to give the rolling TV news consuming folks in the world ulcers.

Today it’s Trump, ISIS, the Middle East, the Baltic region, Brexit, climate change, fascism, xenophobia, homophobia…you get the picture.  But today we’re equally – if not more – likely to get our drip-feed of anxiety inducing horror through our social media feed as we are through Sky News or CNN. We tool rolling news and rolled it up and put it in our pocket on our phones.

I was again reminded of this in recent months when I’ve felt the urge for the Dandelion Break growing – not particularly in me, but in lots of people around me and people I know through social media. I recently saw a comment on my Facebook feed to the effect that the person concerned was incredibly depressed to the point of crippling anxiety by the state of the world, and another comment from a gentleman being interviewed:

“When I look to the past I get depressed, when I look to the future I get scared.”

I think I’ll be returning to that particular story on another occasion.

There is certainly enough to make so many people take dandelion breaks that the whole of Bloom County’s grassy knolls would be full of anxiety crippled folks sitting and meditating on the beauty of nature. Everyone has to find their own version of the Dandelion Break to save their sanity…or do we?

Whilst loving the concept, I’ve managed to cut down my need for Dandelion Breaks caused by the external events in the world by simply not immersing myself in the day to day stream of ‘world news’ stories that buffet us.

I turn off the tech.

I’ve chosen instead to put myself on a strict diet of ‘catch the headlines if they’re passing by’ and focus on things closer to home – family, cats, friends, work, church. I strengthen my relationships with people around me; I look after my own community and my job and my church. I guard my soul, and hopefully support the souls of others.

As I said on Facebook the other day:

“I catch the headlines online and then that’s it. If WW3 breaks out I’ll know when I see a big flash of light and hear the local ‘Comic Book Guy’ say ‘I have wasted my life.’

Being aware of the weight and tumult of the world when we’re unable to prevent it is a form of torture; I prefer to work locally and try to make things better that I can make better.”

We all have circles of action – the world around us in which our doing or not doing something has immediate and lasting action.  The part of our lives where we can do something to reduce our anxieties in a practical manner.  Then we have circles of influence – we might argue a point, make a decision and communicate and delegate action to be done – the part of the world where we don’t necessarily have that direct impact on the world but we stand a fair to middling chance of influencing it.  Then we have the circle of concern – stuff ‘out there’ that we can’t realistically impact.

Right now, I’m pulling back in to my circle of action. My circles of influence and concern can, for the moment, go screw themselves.  I am not going to cripple myself and by extension my family, cats, friends, work and spiritual life by gaining sleepless night worrying myself stupid about issues I cannot influence.

I know that people will accuse me of being isolationist, uncaring, selfish – please fill in your own words here.  But I can do nothing for the world if I’m broken; and the constant, daily – no, hourly – forcing of the issues of the world over which we have so little influence in our day to day actions simply kills us.

One day, I’ll be strong enough to grow my circle of action further in to my circle of influence – to extend the area around my life where I can do things that have a direct impact on reducing my anxieties.  Until then I intend to push my existential anxieties in the my equivalent of the Bloom County anxiety closet, and use my energy on DOING stuff that benefits me and those around me – family, friends, community – rather than getting in to the depths of ‘The world sucks, it’s all pointless.’

I like having the fallback of a Dandelion Break if needed, but it will be down to earth, practical worries that sends me there.





He’s not the Messiah….

And so the Left and progressive movement in the UK and further afield rip themselves apart over Julian Assange.  I’d repeatedly said to myself ‘Don’t blog on this, you’ll annoy people, get your blood pressure up, and waste a good hour of your life’.  But, I can’t help it, after seeing ‘old heroes’ of the left supporting a bloke who has taken residence in a foreign embassy to avoid answering allegations of serious sexual assault, and hearing on the TV news people cheering him as if he’s some sort of hero.

Wikileaks started off with some good ideas, but I started falling out with it big time when it made some serious errors of judgement or process and ended up publishing secret information that made it more likely for folks who’d acted as interpreters or informers to Western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to be identified.  All of a sudden the business of providing ‘Heat magazine for the chattering political classes’ was also making it possible for folks to be shot, bombed or tortured to death for giving information to Western forces.  Whether some folks on the left actually applauded this accidental release I don’t know – but any blood spilt because of these leaks has to lie at the door of Wikileaks and it’s team.

When Assange got himself in to trouble with allegations of sexual assault in Sweden, it was immediately leapt upon by many of the left as a set up of some sort.  Stories abounded about whether the events had happened, whether the women were CIA agents, all sorts of stuff.  the bottom line, though, was that Assange was wanted for questioning about these allegations in Sweden, ended up in London, then went to the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden as he and his supporters felt that he would be extradited to the US to answer potential espionage charges.  Which is ironic in itself, given that a journalist in Ecuador picked up 3 years in jail for ‘defamation’ of the Government of that country….

Which is where we are today, with long time doyens of the left like Tariq Ali, Ken Loach and John Pilger bending over backwards in support, and the progressive and left movement in the UK tearing itself apart over the whole issue.  I hate being able to say ‘I told you so…’ but I’m afraid that I’ve been warning anyone who will listen about the dangers from Assange for at least 3 years.  Here are a few points for my left wing friends supporting Assange to bear in mind.

If the US wanted Assange, I’m quite sure that between 2010 and now, it defies belief that the evil US Government wouldn’t have snatched him off the streets of wherever he happened to be.  The fact that they haven’t means that either they don’t want him badly enough, they don’t want him at all, or the US Government isn’t quite that evil….

It would be easier for the US to request extradition directly from the UK than go through this malarkey of asking Sweden to extradite first.  In recent years the UK has agreed to extradite bankers, alleged terrorists and computer hackers at the drop of a hat.  Are you genuinely trying to tell me that the UK Government wouldn’t agree, if asked, to extradite someone who the US want to talk to over leaks that may have impacted on UK military and diplomatic issues?

The likelihood of Assange being extradited from Sweden is low; why won’t he answer questions about the alleged allegations?

The whole issue looks like it reinforces a lot of rumours about just how mysoginistic the British left and it’s supporters can be when ‘the cause’ is viewed to be under threat.  By refusing to even consider whether or not the sexual assault allegations have any ground to them at all, supporters are denigrating the stories of women who have been assaulted.

Is the blind support of Assange and Wikileaks worth the massive rift that is being caused in the left and progressive movement?  Or is it a traditional knee jerk reaction as described by Nick Cohen in ‘What’s Left’ in which anything that gives the opportunity to hit at the US or UK must be right?

Come on folks, think this out – the Wikileaks material is what I’d expect to see in secret documents.  There’s little, if anything, in there that hasn’t been brought to the attention of journalists through other means. Just how many of the supporters of Assange have read the Wikileaks stuff?  Did it enlighten you about anything?  Is it worth the risk that by splitting the progressive movement around Assange and Wikileaks we damage the chances of change in the future?

Think carefully – the folks who’re suffering hard under Government policies in the UK right now may be very unforgiving if this demonstration of how ‘right on’ the left can be wrecks the chance of change.

Whoops…no Apocalypse!

So, all you Olympic / Illuminati / Alien Conspiracy theorists….how’s that ‘The 2012 Olympics will herald the end of the world with nukes, interdimensional portals and alien invaders’ idea hanging this morning?

A few weeks ago I posted this item – – and as we’ve now crashed back to earth on the Monday after the Olympic closing ceremony, I think I can safely say that given 3 possible ends of the world, 2 opportunities for these events to happen (opening and closing ceremonies) and 2 weeks of primetime TV coverage in case the bad guys were late in arriving – it’s not going to happen.

The use of the Clash in an advert was just marketing gonks not listening to the words, the triangular lighting towers at the stadium were just….surprise….triangular lighting towers, the ‘Shard’ is just a rather big glass and steel penis substitute and not a landing platform for Goa’uld style pyramid shaped mother ships.

The closest that we got to an interdimensional portal releasing hordes of creatures from another dimension was when the Octopus appeared in the closing ceremony, and for a brief moment it did look like “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” was about to give way to ‘Cthulhu has been woken up by the din and fancies a light supper’…..

OK.  Enough jokes. like I said previously – what really scares me is that there are quite a lot of sane, otherwise sensible people who publicly (well, behind Internet aliases) stated that all this bollocks was going to happen, and larger numbers of people who believed it.  Given the state of the world I guess that if I was feeling generous I could attribute this sort of rubbish to some sort of late Millennial or pre-Mayan Endtimes panic or a spillover of stress from the economic and environmental problems facing the world, but when I’m feeling less generous I have to regard the people pushing this tripe as rather nasty, evil little trolls.

So…to all you conspiracy nuts. Anyone I know on Twitter or Facebook will be purged the first time that you post ANY sort of apologetics explaining why the end of the world didn’t happen.  Just ‘fess up and admit it was bollocks.  There’s good folks.  And get back to playing Dungeons and Dragons.

And for the worried and the anxious – there are enough real world problems out here to deal with.  Engage with a few and try and make the future for yourselves and your family what you want it to be, rather than being anxious about a future that will never exist outside bad science fiction or a psychiatric ward.

How Danny Boyle accidentally saved the Coalition

On Friday, 16th November, 2012 the General Election results reflected what had been the mood of much of the country since July of that year; increased support and continued mandate for the Coalition Government of David Cameron.  The early election had been called in early September by the 2/3 majority in the House of Commons required by the Fixed term Parliaments Act, with both the Coalition and Opposition generally feeling that they had it in the bag.

As Ed Miliband prepared to step down as leader of the Labour Party, and hence kick off a further period of in-fighting and introspection, he must have wondered how it had all gone so badly wrong.  As did ex-Chancellor George Osborne, who had been fired from his post in early October – quite a daring step for Prime Minister David Cameron but later regarded as a cost that that party had to pay.  New Chancellor Danny Alexander had spoken with the IMF and agreed that the stringent austerity policies of his predecessor would be slackened off.  The Coalition had some how survived – the next election set for 2017.

How had this come to pass?  The answer lay with a peculiarity of the British Electorate and the astonishing Olympic Opening Ceremony that the world had witnessed on July 27th.  It may also have been slightly helped by the antics of US Presidential Mitt Romney who, on the 26th July when visiting the UK, had managed to insult his hosts in quite a public manner.  And it certainly wasn’t hindered by a reasonable sporting performance during the games and the publication of a set of financial results in August that suggested that things were possibly coming along, even if many people in country were suffering badly.  And a couple of highly public firings of Tory MPs with extremist views, and their replacement with ‘party liners’ was highly regarded in the press.

The Games gave Cameron his Falklands moment; just as his predecessor Margaret Thatcher had been able to return to power on an increased majority on the back of a successful patriotic war, Cameron had been able to marshal the hype around the Olympics to his own advantage, making good use of the Olympic ‘feel good’ factor and taking a massive chance that the slight improvement of published financials and the October reshuffle would bring him votes.  Labour had failed to get traction as an opposition party; their own leaders realized that they would be forced to make some unpalatable decisions themselves and appeared to be almost paralysed by their honesty, as spokesmen repeated that ‘things  were not going to be easy’.

But that Friday morning, as Cameron started to plan for this new Cabinet, he knew that his victory started the instant that the spectacular Opening Ceremony hit the screens and fired up in the watching public that very peculiar form of national pride that has carried more than one Prime Minister to election victory by the ‘feel good’ factor.  Even the pointedly critical  ‘NHS’ segment was put to good use when, in late August, Cameron gave a speech in which he stated that he and his Government would take on board the Olympic Spirit and start by listening to the people; the outpouring of public support for the NHS triggered by the ceremony had made him rethink policy and in a massive U-Turn the NHS reforms would be reversed.

In the weeks up to and during the election campaign, Cameron deftly reflected on the Olympic ideal in virtually every speech he made; the fact that Britain had once again managed to produce a wonderful event in a time of austerity; that once again we had shown our abilities to the world.  Some early orders to business based on the Olympic Business Summit in the week before the games were heavily publicised, and various pundits of the left and ‘progessive’ movements in the UK were indirectly bought in to the campaign, as positive comments they had made about the Olympics were re-used widely in the media.

As the time approached for him to visit the Palace, he took time out to write a memo to his Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood.  It was short: “Would it be too wicked to offer Danny Boyle a knighthood for ‘Services to the Conservative Party’?”  Cameron smirked and started thinking that some of those NHS reforms were pretty damn good and would have to be reintroduced….

Running with the hares and hunting with the hounds….

The title of this piece alludes to an old English saying; to ‘run with the hares and hunt with the hounds’ is a way of saying that someone attempts to benefit from both sides in a dispute.

This saying was bought very much to my mind last week by the actions of two entertainers whose behaviour might be regarded as jarring somewhat with the ‘public persona’ that has made them famous.

The first of these is the satirist Armando Iannucci – described by the Daily Telegraph as ‘the hardman of political satire’ for his work with TV show ‘The Thick of It’ and the film ‘In the loop’. It seems odd that such a person should accept an OBE – which is what has happened.  In other words, satirist honoured by the system that he apparently despises so much, and who then chooses to accept the honour.  Consider yourself neutered, Armando.

The second is Jimmy Carr, comedian and someone who has been shown to be ‘frugal with his tax payments’ by using a legal tax avoidance scheme.  There is an old joke that says ‘What’s the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion? About 7 years in Pentonville prison….’; well, Carr has apparently seen the light and accepted that what he did was wrong.  After all, sheltering 3 million a year from HMRC at a time when most of us are under the cosh might seem a little unfeeling- especially coming from a man who’s humour has included comments about the fact that Barclays Bank only pays 1% tax.  But it’s OK – it’s all a joke, isn’t it?

These two gentlemen, in my eyes, do seem to want the benefits of appearing edgy and slightly risky, whilst apparently accepting all the perks and benefits that the current establishment and economic system have to offer.  To me it leaves a rather nasty taste in my mouth.

I have to say that I’m not a fan of the work of either man – I guess that’s made it easier for me to be grumpy about it – but my estimation of both of them would have gone up had they walked the walk that goes with their talk.

The obligatory Facebook IPO post….or…Hey! Zuckerberg! You’re my bitch!

Well, despite the state of the world economy, Facebook finally managed it’s IPO today and ended the day at roughly the same level as it launched at, having had a high point of about $42 and a start point of $38.  Now, when I were a lad we did IPOs differently – take the VA Linux IPO in the 1990s – a first day increase of nearly 700% on the starting price…..

But the world is different today, and the markets are older – although given recent behaviours not any wiser.   The Facebook IPO was never going to be a show-stopper of the type we saw in the first dot-com boom, no matter how people hyped it up.  But, even Linked In, that had it’s IPO more recently, opened at $45 and closed at around $90 on the first day. So what happened to facebook, and why should we care?

To start with, the opening price was, in my opinion, incredibly high for a company that simply peddles user generated content, games access, in game currencies, personal data access and adverts.  And that’s why we should care, because ultimately the value of Facebook will depend upon how advertisers and data crunchers value that content and the 900 million users of Facebook, and whether those users will keep playing the Facebook game.

Why did Facebook go public?  Traditionally, companies go public when they need a market in which to sell shares in the company to investors in order to raise money, typically for expansion, moving new products to market, etc.  In recent years – especially in tech industries – the IPO has been seen as a means by which the people involved with the startup can flog their shares and get rich quick, and I’m afraid that’s what I see happening here.

The big question is – how is Facebook worth $100 billion dollars?  That’s more than Ford and more than Macdonalds.  Last year Facebook returned a profit of a billion dollars on revenue of 3.7 billion dollars, which isn’t bad going.  Ford had revenues of over $100 billion, and profits of over $6 billion in 2010, having reduced it’s debt by $12 billion in the same year.  Not bad either. But Ford only has a market capitalisation of $38 billion.  So, that market capitalisation of Ford of 38 billions is related to a profit of $6 billions.  Now, whilst you can’t compare Internet and non-Internet stocks, if I were to apply the same rules I’d start thinking that Facebook should, on those proportions, be floated at no more than $6 or $7 billion.

Let’s be fairer and take Google as our reference point.  It’s Internet stock, after all.  Current Market Capitalisation of $197 billion, revenue of $40 billion and income of $10 billion.  Applying some ratios again, Google seem to have a profit of about 25% of revenues, and a Market Cap. of around 5* revenue.  Now, Facebook has profits which are not that far off of the same ratio as Google – 1/3.7*100 = 27%, so if we apply the 5* rule we get 5*3.7 billion – let’s be generous and say $20 billions.

So, Joe’s rough and ready calculations say that Facebook should have sold at $20 billions.  Now, I’m not a stockbroker – in fact, I’m not brilliant with money at all, but this seems….logical.  The difference between Google and Facebook, of course,  is the magic words ‘Social Media’.  After all, Social is the future, according to the pundits, so it must be logical that the Facebook valuation reflects something of the massive profits that people expect to make from Social Media in future.  Yes?

Right…let’s look at Linked IN.  Recentish float, social media company, not so many users, blah, blah.  Market capitalisation of $10 billion dollars (no missing zero), Revenue about $670 million, profits about $17 million.  Oooer.  So Social isn’t necessarily the magic word.

So what could that magic ingredient be?  What do analysts think makes Facebook worth so much?  Do me a favour.  If, like me, you’re a Facebook user, walk to the bathroom, look in the mirror.  Say Hi.  You’re looking at 1/900 millionth of Facebook’s secret sauce. Those investors are putting a lot of money in to the hope that we will continue spending money that can, in some way, be associated with our use of Facebook.  Now, I’ve not spent a dime through any Facebook related advert, game or doohickey in the 4 or so years I’ve been on there.  I rate every advert that pops up in my Timeline (except for the ones from Charities and non-profits) as offensive.  How we use facebook from here on in will make or break a lot of fortunes.

If you want something to put a smile on your face today, remember that 1/900 millionth of Mark Zuckerberg’s arse is yours.  Collectively, Zuckerberg is our bitch.


“I heard the news today, oh boy…”

…which many will recognise as the opening line of the Beatles song, “A Day in the Life”.  Unfortunately, I had to change the next line to ‘…and was as angry as Hell’ rather than ‘About a lucky man who made the grade’.

Today, on Westminster Bridge in London, people protesting against Government Plans to ‘reform’ the NHS are gathering in an event called, on Twitter, #blockthebridge.  It appears that a few thousand people are gathering, and at the time of writing the protest was peaceful.  Although you might be ignorant of this protest unless you’re following it on social media like Twitter and Facebook, becasue neither the BBC or Sky News have seen fit to report on it.

After all, there is a more important story happening..Sir Paul McCartney is getting married! Yes! We’ve had the interviews with the waiting fans, know that Sir Paul and his bride to be went for a workout this morning, know the colour of the wedding car and it’s just popped up as ‘Breaking News’ on the BBC News channel where we have live footage of a car parked in a driveway waiting to drive off.

Quite honestly, it’s shameful – McCartney and (on Sky) dead pop singer Michael Jackson have managed to provide some suitably anodyne and irrelevant ‘OK’ or ‘Hello’ style celeb puff pieces to cover up that people are fighting for the future of the NHS.  It’s either piss poor editorial decision making or censorship, and given the coverage not given to the Wall Street occupation in the last week I’m going with censorship.

Oddly enough, it would have been John Lennon’s birthday today, and I like to think that as the co-writer of the song I quoted above he would have been tempted to go and join the protesters rather than attend the wedding, had he still been with us – were he not already occupying Wall Street, of course.

And in case you’re interested, the BBC are now showing a bus pulling up at a Register Office….


Just one more thing….

Yesterday, Peter Falk died.  The 83 year old veteran actor had had dementia for a few years – an ironic end for a man who will always be known as Columbo, the dishevelled homicide detective with the razor sharp mind. Enough will be (rightly) written about Mr Falk over the next few days, and I’m sure that the TV planners are already dusting off parts of their schedule for a few re-runs, but I just wanted to blog about what Peter Falk meant to me as an integral part of growing up.

I blogged about the show a year or so ago – here – and it’s sad to come back to it in this way.

Columbo was part of the ‘Mystery Movie’  TV series developed in the US in the late 1960s / early 1970s that featured feature-length stories from three or four detective, once a week. So you’d get a Columbo one week, McMillan and Wife, then a McCloud, etc. They were standard viewing in Pritchard Towers – although I was usually dodging in and out of the living room, doing homework and hobbies or just ‘mucking about’ in the evening.   Columbo is always associated with my early teens; whereas I was not always allowed to watch some TV police shows, Columbo was OK and passed parental screening.

It was like a jigsaw puzzle – you knew who did it, when, how and to whom.  the trick was working out how Columbo would piece the clues together to get to the murderer. If there was ever such a thing as a ‘Police Opera’, Columbo was it.  There’s a saying ‘The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings’ – in Columbo, it wouldn’t be over until the man in the mac turned to the suspect as he was leaving after an interview and said ‘There’s just one more thing…’.  That was the ‘Black Spot’ for the murderer – they were marked for nicking, and it was just a formality from there on in.  The bumbling detective who, in the words of one character, ‘looked like an unmade bed’ was in many cases almost apologetic when he slapped the cuffs on – indeed, there were a number of episodes where the murderer was much more sympathetic than the victim! Columbo was like a favourite uncle, complete with dreadful car and a dog as laid back as he was, called ‘Dog’.

Like another of my favourite detectives, Morse, first name was never mentioned; I got the impression that his mysterious wife (like Arthur Dailey’s ‘er indoors’, mentioned often, never seen) would call him to dinner with a quick ‘Lieutenant, dinner’s up’.  To me he had a number of character traits that were charming and unusual to see in a lead role in a TV detective show.  He was untidy, (apparently) easily distracted, showed humility and was pretty non-violent. He also had a sharp mind, dogged persistence and a sense of fair play and justice. In other words, he was a nice guy who just happened to be a homicide cop.  He didn’t have ‘issues’ like modern cops, but you could actually believe in him – I think even now I want my police murder squad people to be either Columbo or Morse.

Falk was also brilliant in one of my favourite war films ‘Anzio’, in which he played a member of a squad of GIs stuck in a farmouse with German soldiers around them, but for me his greatest film role would be as, wait for it, unkempt, dishevelled, private detective ‘Sam Diamond’ in the brilliant comedy ‘Murder by Death’, which sends up every ‘locked room’ mystery you will ever have seen.  It was on TV a few days ago.  There is a description (and spoilers) here.  If you’ve not seen it, and don’t mind fun being poked at Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade et al. then do take a look!  Falk has some brilliant lines – I have to say that my favourite, after he finds out that he and his girlfriend are locked in a room with a bomb set to explode in 30 seconds, is :

[a bomb is about to explode]
Sam Diamond: I’ve got an idea! I don’t know if it will work but I’ve got to try. Turn around!
Tess Skeffington: I’ve turned, Sam.
Sam Diamond: Whatever you do, don’t turn around until I say so.
Tess Skeffington: [turns around] But Sam…
Tess Skeffington: Yes, Sam.
Sam Diamond: Good! Cause… I think… I’m gonna cry.

When the news came through about Peter’s death yesterday, I heard it first from Twitter, and then came the grubbing around for a few minutes on Google and such to get it confirmed.  I have to admit to being a little bit teary – but then I realised that I was sad and smiling – all those super memories I have put there by Peter Falk. 

Let me find my Columbo box set…