Santa’s Secret

“The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept” – George Carlin

Thanks to my wife, who has these things called friends, I recently had the pleasure of spending a festive evening drinking in the company of breeders. Predictably, conversation soon turned around to the topic of their oiks, which usually results in me frantically reaching for a soothing glug of alcohol.  This time though, before I could reach for some liquid amnesia, my interest was ignited by the discussion.

Should you tell your urchin that Santa doesn’t exist thus shattering the first of many childhood dreams? The general consensus was that no, you should play along to preserve the sanctimony of innocent youth.  I did offer up the Russell Brand hypothesis that you should tell your offspring about the great Father Christmas fraud, as it will shatter their parental trust when they find out that you’ve lied to them for years, but this was roundly discredited on the grounds that it would ruin Christmas.

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Brand – Teller of dangerous truths!

And for once I agree with them. Not because it would ruin Christmas, there’s plenty of other things that already do that (rampant materialism, extended family and friends, the ever increasingly pathetic John Lewis music etc.).  But because Brand is essentially preventing his brat from learning an essential lesson in life: People are bastard liars!

Imagine a world built on Brand’s hypothesis. You are told that Santa is effectively as real as Snow White.  Whilst your trust in adults grows, you fail to learn that everybody has the potential to be a lying bastard.  Now you may think that this is a good thing.  Surely a less cynical world would be a more charming, quaint place to live in.  You would be wrong.

Imagine a world where the majority of people believe that Boris Johnson is going to send £350m from the EU to help the NHS. Bad example.  Imagine a world where tens of millions of registered voters believe that Trump is going to make America great again.  Errrmm.  OK, so a significant number of people are idiots, but imagine the damage that could be done if in addition to these idiots we create an increasing number of gullible people who believe everything that they are told.  Trump would get a second term.  Johnson would be PM.  Everyone would believe that it is butter.  Quite frankly, that is not a dystopian vision of the future that I want to see come to fruition.

Learning that people lie, including your parents, all the time is a good thing. It means that those who have some modicum of intellectual capacity will question things.  They’ll still be in the minority, but they have a vital finger in the wall of the leaky dam that is holding back a tidal wave of idiocy.  If you really love your tyke you’ll lie to them about the existence of Santa, destroy any credibility that you hold in their eyes (let’s face it, it’ll happen anyway) and give them the gift that keeps on giving: scepticism.

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Pul the other one

One voice, one hope, One real decision. Gimme one vision.

Queen (One Vision)

In Boro’s winter of discontent Steve Gibson has struck a footballing Faustian pact. If you desire Premier League football above all else Mr Gibson that is what you shall have.  I only ask that you pay one price; Pulis!  With that Steve Gibson hands over the clubs soul and receives a baseball cap.

Tony Pulis’ pending arrival has been welcomed by many Boro fans, but at what cost? He may have a record of keeping unfashionable clubs in the Premier League, but often leaves in acrimony. He hit the glass ceiling at Stoke and left to supporter discontent at an increasingly unpalatable style of football.  At Palace he left under different circumstances after having his head turned and ended up on the losing end of a messy court case.  His WBA reign was an accelerated version of his time at Stoke, with outright dissent from the baggies faithful after his safety first football failed to even offer safety, falling on his sword after a run of 4 wins in 22.  He hasn’t managed in the Championship for 10 seasons.  His motives are questionable given the dent in his finances that the Palace court case made.  He looks far from the sure bet that some seem to think he is.

So why had Gibson poured the Pulis poison from the chalice? Promotion? But beyond that what is the plan?  Where do the Boro hierarchy see the club in five years’ time?  What is the vision of Boro’s style?  Why have Boro frequently had to tear it up and start again in the post-McClaren era?

 

 

Steve Gibson is a Boro legend and in some respects the ideal custodian of the club. But the malaise surrounding Monk’s mismanagement and Pulis’ appointment has its roots in decisions taken, or not taken, at the top. All too often new appointments are made as revolution and counter-revolution to the previous regime.  As the New Year is a time for reflection, let’s take a brief ramble through recent Boro history.

Gareth Southgate was appointed to reduce the average age and average wage. What we got was Aldi-Arsenal with all the defensive frailties and little of the attacking verve.  A weak team progressively got weaker and found themselves in the Championship.

Cue Strachan’s Scot-ification with the mandate to man-up Boro. A big spending supermarket sweep of the SPL saw a Boro squad stuffed with high performers from Scotland who struggled south of the border.  The football was as inspirational as Strachan’s press conferences with the results as pretty as a Strachan sound bite.  Enter the Teesside tiki-taka tactical shift.

Mowbray took a timid side, packed with players he offloaded from Celtic, and gradually took them up the league playing a more entertaining style. As the big earners were offloaded and replaced with free transfers, loans and bargain bucket signings, Tony’s tactics got found out.  Bring on the Spanish revolution

Karanka introduced solidarity on the pitch and delivered Premier League football, where his stifling style got found out. A meltdown swiftly followed and he left behind a divided squad and a club nose diving back towards the Championship.  But fear not, Monk was appointed to add flair and pace, we would ‘smash the league’, Boro are back. We all know how that ended up.

What does all this dredging up of the past show? That each Boro manager appointed has had an entirely different style to his predecessor.  This results in a huge turnover in players and staff, often at great cost, as the Boro style shifts from one extreme to another (at least Monk didn’t have an assistant manager to fire, but perhaps that was part of the problem!). Each style shift takes time to implement, the new man needs time to embed his ideas and sign his players.  Time is in short supply in modern football.

If a business was run in this manner, the CEO would be hauled in front of the shareholders and handed their P45. So why do the Boro head honchos appear to have no vision for the club other than to throw money at things and hope the man in charge gets it right, if not just sack him and start again, repeat ad infinitum.

What Gibson, Bausor and co. need to work out is what they want Boro to be. If it’s a team that tries to entertain, stick to the Robson, Southgate, and Mowbray style of appointment.  If it’s a solid team that grinds out results, stick with your Strachan, Karanka and Pulis.  Watford, Southampton and until recently Swansea have all shown how a clear club vision means that the man in charge can be interchangeable.  But flitting from one extreme to another means that Boro will endure more turbulence than trophies.  Gibson must think further forward if Boro are ever to be rewarded.

This boy reads…Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)

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It really is a Brave New World

This boy reads – a riposte to the gender selective book club ‘This girl reads’ frequented by some of my colleagues (you know who you are!). The beauty of the club is that it only requires ‘this boy’ to read.

 

There is no such thing as utopia or dystopia; it all depends on the perspective of the individual. This is what becomes apparent after reading ‘Brave New World’ (perhaps it should be relabelled as simply topian literature, but then maybe people will think of it as books about manicured hedges – no, that’s topiary; I digress!).

On the face of it, the future laid out in ‘Brave New World’ doesn’t seem so bad. Ageing and disease are eradicated, child birth is now unnecessary and people are taught not to fear death. Humans are bred and educated so as to enjoy their role in society and casual sex is not just encouraged, but seen as the norm. If all else fails, a euphoric drug with no side effects is handed out freely.

Scratch the surface though and all is not quite as it seems. ‘Brave New World’ has eerie parallels with the modern world. It is these darker truths that the three protagonists of ‘Brave New World’, Marx, Helmholtz & the Savage, find themselves confronting.

Meritocracy is no more, you are bred for your career and brainwashed into loving it whilst the world is controlled by a select few dictatorial world controllers. Is this so different to the elite schools and universities that are exclusive to our leaders? Rampant consumerism propels employment and leisure, in much the same way that consumer spending props up the British economy. Why we may not be quite at the point where everyone belongs to everybody else, a simple swipe left or right dictates who we do and don’t belong to.

But what is wrong with that when the vast majority accept and welcome that arrangement? Messer’s Marx, Helmholtz and the Savage find out that questioning the status quo results in social exile, much like anyone offering a contrarian view to accepted wisdom on social media. The trio are soon faced with a choice that befalls us all, that even World Controller Mond had to make. Accept your place in the system unquestioning or risk ruin and ridicule. Perhaps the Savage finds another way?

Rating:

 👲👲👲👲 (4 boys out of 5 recommend this book)

Open collared cut-throats

Could this be an arm around my waist?

Well, surely the hand contains a knife?

Morrissey – I’m OK by Myself

For some time now, an occurrence in the corporate world has been troubling me. The rise of zero hour contracts? No!  Increasing job insecurity? No!  The erosion of the powerbase of the unions leading to the increasing exploitation of workers?  Well, it is a concern, but No!  It’s the stupidity of suiting up yet siphoning the tie.

Why go to the trouble of smartening yourself up only do undo all your good work by failing to fasten your collar and do your tie. It is the equivalent of the palace guard without his stupid big hat, a jockey without his whip, an aristocrat without his monocle.  Or to put in another way, all fur coat and no pants.

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I’m the Jose of the boardroom!

 

I first noticed this peculiar phenomenon when Roman Abramovich and Jose Mourinho adopted this style when Chelsea was conquering the country circa 2004. A few deluded management types literally followed suit.  You could see it playing out in their heads, imagining themselves as a suave, sophisticated supervisor or a billionaire boss: “if we deploy Jane from accounts and Steve from marketing as inverted wingers with me spear heading the attack, we’ll really outperform our sales targets”.

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But…he wasn’t…wearing…a…tie!

 

If this fashion faux pas was just a case of comfort or trend setting, I could let it go. But as ever in the bullshit world of business, there is a sinister ulterior motive.  Apparently, not wearing a tie makes one more ‘approachable’. So this two bit no tie theory is now being taught at every managerial brainwashing camp, hence the exponential spread of the open collared cult.  Why would management want to be more approachable?  Is it because they want to be your friend?  No!  It’s so that as you’re drawn in for an embrace by that comforting open collar, you feel the thrust of your P45 knifed into your back.  And as you fall to the floor, there’s no tie to cling onto to break your fall.

No Pain, No Shame

Only two things are successful in distracting me from the miserable existence that is my life – sleep and exercise. Sadly, my employer selfishly refuses to let me chose a start time that allows me to get my preferred ten hours minimum (and trying to go to sleep at 9pm is impossible!).  So instead I seek my solace in exercise.

In my post 30 years my legs depressingly now need 2-3 days minimum recovery time following a game of football (my preferred vehicle for exercising), so I’m now left with little alternative than to spend more time at the gym. At this time of year, there is a sudden influx of podgy people in pristine Lycra popping up, much to the chagrin of the regular gym users.  But I welcome these arrivistes; they have noble life transformation intentions, they appear to be vaguely normal and they’ll be gone in a month, which is sadly not the case for the regular gym users.

I have tried to ignore these dedicated gym people, but a diet of protein powder and steroids (probably) appears to result in an acute case of adult ADHD. My mission to find serenity is oft interrupted by the clatter of weights as some macho man drops them from a great height.  The urge to wander over and inquire “those a bit heavy for you mate?” is difficult to resist, but I remind myself that their sense of humour isn’t likely to be as well-honed as their physique.  I observed another individual, who after carefully glancing over both shoulders, lifted his vest so that he could admire his midriff in the mirror.  Sadly, he did not share such admiration for my laughter, which could not be contained.  Perhaps he was engaging in some kind of mating ritual, much like a baboon baring its backside.

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Admire my strength!

 

All this would be tolerable, but sadly it is not enough for these meat heads to just make fools of themselves. Whilst quietly minding my own business one evening, I was approached and propositioned with “want to do arms?”  This caught me off guard and, in a state of blind panic, I agreed.  ‘Doing arms’ it turns out is actually just doing endless permutations of bicep curl exercises with increasingly heavy weights.  I was on the verge of pointing out that the human arm consists of more than just a bicep, but a thought occurred to me.  This is just efficiency in action.  Why waste your efforts trying to exercise all of your body when you can focus on a single muscle and exercise the shit out of it.  Not sure how this guy will be able to find clothing that fits biceps that are three times bigger than the rest of his body mind.  Although that does explain the vest.

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Wanna do arms?

 

So New Year gym joiners, I welcome you. You may get in the way, you may hog equipment whilst chatting on your phone and you may soon be gone, but whilst you’re here you dilute the amount of twats that normally inhabit this place.  It makes me wonder if that oft used gym adage should be given a New Year makeover to read ‘no pain, no shame’.

Baby Ink Twice

‘Fashions fade, style is eternal.’ – Yves Saint Laurent

Child cruelty can take many forms. Of that I was reminded whilst on the plane to Spain.  The chap sat in front of me had given his child a classic Chris Waddle haircut.  As if that wasn’t bad enough for the little urchin, his father, who was wearing a vest (this appeared to be for neither aesthetic nor temperature related reasons), had his face, Waddle cut and all, tattooed on his shoulder.  So despite the little oik not being old enough to remember when we had what appeared to be road kill on his head, he will have a permanent reminder courtesy of his Dad’s ink work.

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Give my boy the Waddle

 

I suppose some instant karma is at play in the world though, as the father has now been left with a permanent monstrosity on his shoulder. As tattoos go, this one is horrific.  If fashion is fleeting and style is eternal, tattoos had their moment in the sun eons ago.  Whenever I clap eyes on a tattoo it screams REGRET in big Chinese symbols.  Imagine a world where you are eternally forced to wear combat trousers, a belt with Jesus Saves spelled out in studs, a t-shirt that changes colour when your hot and some charity wrist bands, like some kind of bad fashion groundhog day.  This is effectively your fate when you get inked.

Your bad tattoo is also going to get progressively worse when you get older. Imagine a gimmer with a top knot, a granny wearing a crop top.  That’s what you’re going to look like when you’re shuffling down the street on your zimmer flashing off your saggy sleeve.  Factor in the fact that although some tattoo artists can draw some really good designs, when it is transferred onto skin, it all goes horribly wrong. In much the same way as a big mac can look like an appetising proposition on a billboard but then looks like gastroenteritis when you open the cardboard.

So what to do about that tat? Laser removal is expensive and leaves a scar.  Cover ups have the same effect as when Father Ted tried to hammer out a dent in his car.  There’s nothing else left, you’re stuck with it.  So next time you’re contemplating entering a parlour, to paraphrase Celine Dion, baby (th)ink twice.

You can’t always get what you want

Hey man I’ve got what you need

And have you ever wanted something so badly

That it possessed your body and your soul

Through the night and through the day

Until you finally get it

And then you realise

That it wasn’t what you wanted after all

(The The, True Happiness This Way Lies)

Britain is suffering from some severe beer fear. After a two month-long night out of supping pints with your friends Nigel and Boris, the reality is starting to hit.  What if all those things that they told me aren’t true?  I bet that those bastards just wanted me to put my cross in their box and now I have they’re not interested in me anymore.  That £350 million isn’t going to be given to the hospitals is it?  Those nasty foreigners aren’t to blame for all my problems, are they?

The British public are now demonstrating levels of stupidity that even I thought they couldn’t reach. People who voted to leave are now upset that this means that we are going to leave.  Who would have thought that?  The outrage!  Just today at the estate agents a woman was asking “do you think that they’ll let us vote again, because we’re only finding out what it means now”.  How the hell did these people decide on which way to vote?  Coin toss?  Eenie meenie miney mo?  Walk into the polling booth, panic and just choose anything?  Presumably the same people complaining about the repercussions only becoming apparent now are those that were complaining about to many experts in the run up to the referendum.

 

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Balls, I was bluffing!

 

It’s not just the ignorant masses wondering what the hell they did last night. Boris, perhaps the most aptly named politician there is, had the look of a man who, after bull-shitting his way through the interview process, has been offered the job and is now in panic mode, because the leave campaign pretty much promised that all our problems will disappear if we leave Europe.  There’s going to be a lot of pissed of people out there when that doesn’t happen and they’re going to come for you Boris.  In fact, the only people who aren’t going to be pissed are those who were stupid enough to believe that the entire population of Turkey was going to up sticks en mass and move to Britain.

The truly depressing thing about this is not that we voted leave (the EU does need reforming, although not by Boris and Farage), but the reasons for voting leave. It appears to be in the large as a result of an unhealthy mixture of ignorance and xenophobia.  But as that gyrating geriatric Jagger once sang, you can’t always get what you want, but you might just get what you need.   Perhaps the chaos and pain of a Boris led Brexit is the only way that we’ll learn.  It’s for your own good!