Why, oh why…

But ask me why, and I’ll spit in your eye

Oh, ask me why, and I’ll spit in your eye

The Smiths – Still Ill

Why? Is there a more heinous word uttered in the workplace than why? Why? Well for starters the person uttering this seemingly innocent three letter word can be best described by use of a four letter word, there’s plenty of them, both users of ‘why’ and said four letter words, so take your pick. But why my pickiness with ‘why’? Why is a fine word that can be used for good. Unfortunately the power of why is instead deployed for the purposes of evil by those responsible for all of the ills in this world: people.

Think about when you tend to hear the word ‘why’ at work. Normally there has been a colossal fuck up (colossal fuck ups are also caused by those very same bastards that exploited ‘why’ – people) and you are the sacrificial lamb charged with breaking this news to your superiors.  How do the great and the good respond? Do they give you a cuddle and tell you everything is going to be OK? Do they pour you a glass of hard liquor to soothe your frayed nerves? Do they pledge to help you un-fuck things up? Do they heek! No, they respond with that damn three letter word: why?  More specifically “why has this happened” or other similarly weasely words to that effect.

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Why?

 

In times of excrement being flung at fans this is the least helpful thing that can be said. If your house was on fire would the fire men or women first put out the fire or just start asking you why your house is on fire whilst all your worldly possessions are cooked Cajun style?  If you had a stab wound would the paramedics stitch you up or ask you why you’ve been stabbed as you slowly lie there dying in a pool of blood? If you find yourself struggling at sea would the Coast Guard ask you why you were out swimming in choppy conditions, waiting for your gurgled response before springing into red swim suited action, or just pluck you out first and call you a twat latter?

So you now see ‘why’ does not help. Not only does it not help, why has been directly responsible for a number of great tragedies throughout the ages (note: artistic license applied):

Pompeii – Mount Vesuvius starts smoking. Ruler of Pompeii ignores pleas to flee and instead demands to know why the volcano is erupting.  Entire population of the town are given a molten lava bath whilst in the midst of pondering the King’s request.

Atlantis – Kingdom starts sinking. King of Atlantis rejects plans to build escape boats and sets up an enquiry panel to find out why a big mass placed in the sea doesn’t float.  Panel present findings of enquiry to the King from within the confines of Davey Jones Locker.

Dinosaurs – Velociraptors want to build a giant laser to blast potentially life threatening comet out of the sky. T-Rex’s overrule them and commission an investigation into why the dinosaurs live on a planet that can be struck by comets.  Outcome unknown. Dinosaurs conspicuous by their 65 million year absence from earth.

heavy sink
Why you ask?  It’s because heavy things don’t float!

So why ‘why’? Probably because the people uttering why either can’t help you or don’t want to help you. Or more likely both.  So next time you hear ‘why’ don’t mutter four letter words under your breath whilst forcing a grin. Perhaps you should instead challenge the great and the good to use another three letter word: how.  As in ‘how can we help you sort this out?’.  Let the inquisition follow later.  That way we all won’t end up in molten lava or destroyed by a comet.  If that doesn’t work you could always follow the sage advice of Morrissey and spit in their eye (disclaimer – I take no responsibility for if you are fired for spitting at your boss!).  It’s your choice. Just don’t ask why!

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This boy reads…Journeyman (Ben Smith)

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.

Journeyman blog
It’s still better than the day job!

 

Most footballers’ autobiographies follow a tried and tested formula. What should be, to the outsider at least, a sensational life expressed through a serious of mundane events punctuated by one act of sensationalism.  Witness ‘Cashley’ Cole’s angry swerve off the road at being offered a meagre £55k a week by Arsenal.  The newspapers get their headline, the player gets his free book promotion and the buyers get disappointment that the only thing worth reading about was splashed in the tabloids that weekend.

Ben Smith bucks this trend by providing an honest account of a seemingly mundane life of a lower league footballer and the results are sensational. They can’t be many books that provide such an honest insight into life as a professional footballer.  Smith’s accompanying accounts of his foray into teaching post football also offer an intriguing juxtaposition to his life as a footballer.

The book dispels the somewhat misty eyed vision I have of the dream of being a professional footballer by highlighting how a football club is a workplace just like any other. Promises around roles in the team and wage rises are made and not kept.  Nepotism can be rife.  Manager’s fail to communicate adequately and blame others for their poor decisions.  You can go to flavour of the month to pariah in an instant should that suit the powers that be.  Yet Smith encounters much of the same when embarking on his teaching career.

But despite all of that, Smith’s account reinforces my belief that I would walk away from any job for a career playing football. It may have its flaws, it may not be glamorous, it may be a million miles away from the five and six figure weekly salaries of the Premier League but the highs are such that even a fleeting professional career makes football better than any ‘normal’ job. In presenting his life in football in clear light Smith makes the case for being a footballer all the more compelling.  More so than any generic media trained offering from a Premier League star.

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.

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)

Brave New World.jpg
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’.