Sex, at a pinch

OMG, that’s the end.

I just got back after five days when I haven’t had any internet, thanks to a doofus from British Telecom who accidentally disconnected my line on Wednesday evening and went off-shift, leaving me to report a fault to Orange EE, my shit service provider, to whom, believe me, you do not want to report a fault on your line unless you have all day and a screwdriver.

There were three new Comments in my inbox, that Arkwright the WordPress Spammeister had let slip through the net, as they were so clearly genuine messages of support, helpful advice and Birthday good wishes.

Epecially the one from a five-line email address that began: Vaginal Tightening Creams@… who are Following me… Oh. My. God!

Luckily, no-one has fallen into bed with me even by mistake for several years now.

But if they do, I shall be careful to ask.

– Uncle Bogler, back with a bang!!!

Advertisements

Drop-down Moses

Your Uncle Bogler is on fire today.

Friday Bogl #2 returns to a familiar theme, that of gumming and gnashing grumpily at the heap of teenage baboons who (in their waking moments) are paid huge sums to design online forms.

We are all mildly irritated, I know, when asked to declare what country we think we might have woken up in, to be faced with what looks like a simple entry field, only to be taken once it is clicked to a dropdown menu containing a nerdy list of every country in the world, all 196 of them (No, Scotland is not a country! Official.) from which you have to select the one nearest to where you live.

It is hard to imagine anyone living in some of these Godforsaken flyblown desert shit-holes actually wanting to do or to buy online, whatever it is you are being asked to sign up to. That’s perhaps a bit of a neocolonialist impression (I do others), but let’s face it, some of those 196 countries on the list don’t really exist, right?

What grates is the idea that the designers think we are so stupid, we cannot just say where we live – do not judge others by your own standards, baboons. Stay off the fermented fruit; or so lazy, that we require the support of a geographer to key-in so many letters, one after the other. Better let us guess where we are.

I imagine therefore that there must be some arcane nerdy secret to it, some link forged between databases, so that when you click on United States, or United Kingdom, a knowing little red light flashes deep within the bowels of GCHQ or in Langley, Va. to alert the Security State to the fact that you have signed up for another garden chair.

Plus, if you do live in the United States, or the United Kingdom, you are going to be a long time a-scrollin’, to find your once-proud nation sandwiched somewhere between Uruguay and Uranus.

Readers of this, muh bogl, will know that, of recent years, my trade has been that of Caretaker – I look expertly after rich people’s abandoned country houses. At least, I did until early in 2012 when, after seven years of stumbling out of bed and into the grounds at two a.m. to chase out drunken teenagers trying to break in to see the ghosts, or hoping to buy drugs (it used to be that sort of a place), I gracefully accepted a redundancy package.

Since then, despite many applications and a very few interviews, I have not managed to find another job like it; or any job at all, come to that – other than supervising the young baboons twice a year for a couple of weeks as they puzzle over their undergraduate exams . It doesn’t pay the rent.

But, knowing as long ago as 2008 that the Sword of Damocles was hanging over my exalted position in service, I signed-up with no fewer than seventeen hoity-toity Central London agencies specialising in recruiting Philippino maids and Latvian gardeners and debutantes called Jocasta straight from nanny finishing-school to slave for overweight Saudi bitch-princesses and heavily sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

In the six years since then, one of them managed to get me one interview; but that was all. Any interviews I have had, have been entirely as a result of my own efforts, ferreting around in the back-end of The Lady – whoops, pardon me.

Another such is an agency called Greycoat, now twinned with Lumleys. I travelled at some expense to their posh address in Belgravia (you’ll find it between Belarus and Bulgaria) for a getting-to-know-you interview with them in April 2008. While they were still Greycoat, they remained relatively civil and communicative, although patently useless where my career was concerned; but since they have invited Lumleys in from the cold, their enormous list of staff consisting entirely of debutantes called Jocasta, so prettily multitudinous that they deserve a drop-down menu all to themselves, has ignored every attempt I have made to draw their attention to things.

Which is why I was tempted the other day by a questionnaire they have rashly published (I still get cheery newsletters from them), asking candidates to declare their level of satisfaction with the services provided. (Of course, if they have managed to find you work, what are you going to say? They must pay themselves somehow, there must be some underlying raison d’être to their continued existence.)

Here was my chance to tell them how completely useless, rude and uncommunicative they were being in my case. It was all the more incomprehensible, given that I was surely the only unemployed caretaker on their books who had been, albeit briefly, at school with the Prince of Wales.

Which was when I hit the snag.

The first few pages were routine, providing several generously proportioned windows where you could extemporise around your feelings towards Messrs Greycoat and/or Lumleys. As you can imagine, I took careful aim and fired, at some length. Towards the far end of the form, however, the questioning became more explicitly concerned with social media usage and brand loyalties, which raised the suspicion that this might not be an exercise designed to survey candidate satisfaction at all, but something much more commercial.

Now, one of the things that probably disqualifies me from consideration for employment as a member of the human race is that I simply don’t ‘do’ social media; unless you count this, muh bogl, which I keep very quiet about, as you may have noticed. I did once many years ago have to register with Facebook, but only because I wanted to contact an old school chum and could not do so without registering. The page still has my name on it, and an improbable date of birth, but nothing else.

Another thing that may divide me from the modern world, is that I don’t have any brand loyalties. Oh, I have my prejudices – I still think Alfa Romeo makes pretty cars and that Gibson guitars are the only ones worth buying because you can sell them easily, even if their designs are stuck in the 1950s. I have remained with the same bank for 40 years, despite being treated scandalously. But I am not a consumer, other than of unbranded foodstuffs and the most nondescript cheap Merlot.

In both cases, therefore, honesty compelled me to tick the No box, when asked to state in the simplest terms, whether or not I used social media, and if I ‘followed’ any brands on them. The follow-up to both questions consisted of yet more drop-down menus, listing various social media I might use, and which brands I might ‘follow’.

The snag being, that there was no option to tick ‘None of the above’.

Now, if you have been asked to state whether or not you do something, it seems pretty futile to then ask you what it is you do, if you have said you don’t, without obliging the interviewee to perjure himself. (Is it a bit OCD to even be worrying about this? I never know.) It’s known as the ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ question, any answer to which damns you if you do, and damns you if you don’t.

But to then put in a little asterisk denoting that, without making an appropriate selection from the seemingly barely relevant drop-down menu, you will be summarily terminating the interview, disqualified from continuing and rendering all that you have previously input insubmissible, seems just mindboglingly, absolutely monumentally, self-defeatingly STUPID. No?

Which is why there is a part of my ancient reptilian brain, doddery old synapses muttering inconsolably down there in the dark, that it is probably deliberate.

I mean, who wants to be told what people really think of them?

 

 

Playing your cards right

  • From the Yahoo! Homepage column of Horoscopy:

    Libra

    23/9-22/10

    You can attract fame and acclaim through your social media presence. People take great delight from your witty postings and thoughtful commentary. Talking about your favourite writers, artists and musicians can attract a loyal following. If you play your cards right, you could be paid for your online presence. Put your communication skills to work. Investing in a good computer or smartphone will allow you to operate more quickly and efficiently. You might have to pay more than you expected.

  • If you play your cards right, you could be paid for your online presence.

 

Can you dig it, you all? Russell Grant is speaking directly to me!!! Wow. This is spooky stuff.

Fame and acclaim I don’t really seek. My ambition is for this, muh li’l bogl – all its witty postings and thoughtful commentary – to be discovered by the delighted reading public only after my death.

I’ve always had a soft spot for posthumously famous writers, artists and musicians. I don’t personally care to be pointed at in the street and whispered about and invited on talkshows and generally mistaken for someone more famous.

But if they want to dig me up from my pauper’s grave in the municipal parking lot up on the hill there, and rebury me in Westminster Abbey, I’d happily be the first blogger to go in Poet’s Corner.

Even while I’m alive, I’m a very private person. Curious, because I like to go on stage and act and sing and play parts labelled ‘First Old Loony’. But it’s not me, it’s just someone who sings and acts. After the show, I’ll slink away home and sit here with the lights off, gently drowning in wine until I stumble off to bed in the dark.

Part of me likes to hide in the dark. It knows it’s going to be punished for what it’s done. Whatever that was. It was when he was very small. The light’ll snap on suddenly one night, there I’ll be, doing whatever it was I shouldn’t. And they’ll lock me away forever.

While another part of me is thinking smugly, this is one in the eye for EDF Energy. They’ve been overbilling me for years for their rotten nuclear electricity. They had the nerve last month to tell me, oh sorry, we forgot to bill you for gas for the past three years, you owe us a thousand pounds. But we’ll knock it down to £250 if you sign up with us again… Blackmail.

So I opened all the unopened bills in the box in my wardrobe and find their billing is a complete mess-up, sometimes just electricity, sometimes gas AND electricity, and I can’t make head nor tail of it. All I can see is that my £44 a month contract has been costing me over £100 a month while nobody has ever read the meters because they’re too damned mean to hire someone.

Is this what old age comes to?

Money, unfortunately, is uppermost on my mind right now. My money finally ran out last month, and now I don’t have enough to pay bills. I’m supposed to get my Old Age Pension next month. It’s more than enough to live on, day-to-day. But it won’t tax the car or pay the bills.

I may be older, but I’m not senile. I saw it coming months ago, put everything I own up for sale, redoubled my efforts to find paid work. But it’s like a thick sock has been pulled over me and my life. Nothing is getting in or out. Nothing is moving or changing. Nothing works. I no longer even listen to jazz music.

Two guys offered me £600 for my car last week. I said yes to each in turn, but neither of them eventuated at the agreed time with the money. The guy who offered me £1250 for my lovely D’Aquisto guitar went away. After he came back last week, the offer was £1000 – take it or leave it, it’s a buyer’s market, no need to stand on pride….  I’ll leave it, thanks.

And the Benefits people I got onto, asking for help I am entitled to after 33 years of paying contributions told me yes, indeed I qualified for help. Since when, I have had a long, slow string of picky, pointless postal demands for this and that piece of information, evidence of nothing much, that they already have.

They are investigating me with a nit comb. Yet it is obvious I have nothing to investigate. My savings account is empty. My overdraft is full. What else do they need to know? It’s the Tory culture of bullying the poorest while their friends in the City gorge on seven-figure bonuses.

But I’ll take fame and acclaim if I have to. It’d be something different. Could even be money, if I play my cards right.

And all I have to do is write about my favourite writers, artists and musicians.

Easy, that’s me!

 

Is this the strangest year ever?

Conspiracy theory/drivel aware

Okay, everyone back to the Third World War.

What if…

There’s probably still a handful of Americans who are convinced that the 1968 NASA moon landing was faked-up in a large hangar somewhere in New Mexico, as a Cold War propaganda exercise to regain leadership of the space/arms race against the Soviet Union. (Yeah, so how come the shadow of the flag is pointing the wrong way? Huh? Answer me that!)

So, there’s quite a lot of scuttlebut going around among journalists of the more adventurous sort about links between the leaders of the ultra-violent ISIS group in Syria and certain shadowy neo-cons in or near the State Department. (You can catch up with it all on HuffPo) (ed. BogPo.)

The theme being that ISIS, which delights in beheading US journalists, is a US-created ‘state-within-a-state’ designed to provide a counterbalance against both Iran and Syria – Russian client states, and a means of defeating Assad without the USA having to fight the war Obama funked last year over the chemical weapons ‘red line’ (and who used those weapons on civilians, eh? Answer me that!).

In other words, the perpetual war continuing to rage in Syria, where the proponents are now so factionalised it is impossible to tell who is on which side, against whom, is being deliberately prolonged as a new episode in what used to be known as The Great Game – the 150-year-old struggle between the Great Powers for hegemony in the Middle East and South-Central Asia.

Now, it’s not inconceivable that the CIA or some sub-group might be playing some part in advancing the War on Terror in this sneaky way. After all, did they not arm and train the Mujahideen, the force of guerrilla fighters who took on the Red Army in the ten-years’ war that followed the Kremlin-sponsored coup in Kabul in 1979 that killed President Amin and put the Soviet puppet Babrak Kamal in power – after the US ambassador had been taken hostage and then was killed in a bungled attempt by the Afghans to rescue him…. (Not that Amin was the goody, his secret police tortured and murdered thousands.)

More brackets: (If you think Syria is complicated, try to work your way through the Wikipedia entry on the Soviet war in Afghanistan… take a sleeping-bag, spare batteries and plenty of provisions.)

And of course the Mujahideen grew to become the Taleban, and they had to be tidied-up later, only the thing had got out of control, and…

So, assuming ISIS is part of the secret plot to restore Iran to the pleasure-loving Parsi democracy we all know it remains under the grim religious surface (Hang on, wasn’t Jimmy Carter the President in 1979? Isn’t the Great Peacemaker linked in some way I can’t quite put my finger on yet to both the opposition in Iran and the opposition in Afghan… oh, I don’t know, it’s too complicated. You can’t really imagine he’d be linked to a conspiracy identified in the George Clooney film Syriana to overthrow the Iranian theocracy, that set-up the US embassy hostages crisis and the bungled attempt to… that cost him the Presidency… ? Lovely old Christian Jimmy?)… then the best way to proceed is to bomb Syria. Geddit? No, neither me.

But look. If we really want to prevent sinister mullahs from recruiting gullible young jihadis in Northern mosques to go fight for the ISIS cause, then why does our news media insist on endlessly recycling the same ISIS recruiting video clips as visual wallpaper for their studio presentation and discussions?

While, the more I have to look at those clips, the more I start to wonder if they are real? If shadowy neo-cons close to the State Department could create ISIS (in league with the Gulf States, whose oil is running out and who need the northern Iraqi oilfields), then would they not also have to invent ISIS?

In the sense that all those propaganda shots of chaps riding exultantly atop ‘captured’ long-range ballistic missiles and tanks (rumour is, we supplied them);  swaggering triumphally in line across the sand, wearing those faintly gay, iconic Balenciaga costumes; sitting out chinwagging about how great Allah is under the desert stars, seem deliberately designed to create an impression of glorious invincibility and romantic adventure that is rather at odds with the reality, which is that wherever they are confronted by forces determined to stop them, they’re stopped – while half of them are blubbing they want to go home, and the other half are being shot as Israeli spies?

You can turn away now, but it has been raised by others – the possibility that the notorious Jihadi John ‘beheading’ videos aren’t totally convincing. When I was a kid, there was a mail-order firm called Ellisdon’s, that specialised in magic tricks. One was a miniature guillotine that would cause grown mothers to faint at the dinner table, when it ‘chopped’ little Jimmy’s finger off! A competent magician could fake it easily. It’s pretty tasteless to try to deny that those hostages were killed somewhere, somehow. What if they werent? I’m only concerned about the plodding script, the improbably tall Darth Vader-alike in black, the voice like a London cabbie’s that appears to have been slowed down for effect, or disguise… the suggestion that the masked man in the picture is only posing, both as the speaker and as the killer.

Extra brackets: (Freudians might point to the unconscious image of Jihadi John as the rapist, demanding fellatio before castrating his rival for the love of the mother-goddess.)

And then, there’s the notorious shot of the ‘massacre’ victims – a pile of corpses, stripped of their clothing, supposedly of captured Iraqi troops, yet upon whose bodies it has been remarked are no signs at all of bullet wounds or blood… the shadow of the flag, pointing the wrong way? And the stories of mass kidnappings of Christian women, forced marriages and conversions, that some female witnesses have said didn’t happen quite like that at all? All deliberately designed by shadowy neo-cons to force Obama and Cameron to skip hand-in-hand into a reprise of Iraq in Syria?

So it’s being murmured in some quarters.

Yet more brackets: (Hey, if you strip away all the big, washy-coloured areas of the news maps of territory supposedly controlled by ISIS, and pare them down – as some other news maps do – to the skinny, wiggly arms of the territory ACTUALLY controlled by ISIS, you see something rather weird. It looks exactly like the Ebola virus…. Now, read on…)

2014 has very probably been the strangest year I can remember. Disappearing airliners, sinking ships, plague, storms, the resurgence of ancient kingdoms (today is referendum day in Scotland…), weird political misalliances, millennarian movements springing up everywhere out of the desert, mass kidnappings, beheadings – not just in Syria, some of them in Britain – a war in Ukraine, that has  taken the lives of three thousand victims but is apparently being fought by neither side… a profound sense of unease in the wake of so many failed attempts by reasonable people everywhere in the past few years to assert some sort of right to a life free from domination by the security state… attempts that would not be in the best interests of the shadowy neo-cons in or near to the State Department… UFO-sightings… asteroids… volcanoes… ghosts… strange lights and sinkholes…  a crack across Mexico… Kim Khardashian and Kanye West… etcetera, so totally etcetera…

If I ever figure out just what is going on, I’ll let you know. Promise.

 

Cracked it…

• Create solution narratives and documentation as well as acting as editor on all business and solution architecture material that forms part of the solution documentation set.

• Establish IT constraints and solution limitations, evaluating impact on solution design and be able to communicate this in business friendly language.

• Understand what the programme will deliver from a business and benefits perspective and advise on areas where this in (sic) not aligned with the evolving solution….
– Harvey Nash plc – The Power of Talent

 

It’s probably the third of those job requirements that I might struggle with, since I am not a Solutions Architect on £55,000 a year and therefore have a problem understanding Tralfamadorian.

The nonsense advertisement I received from a recruitment consultant as a result of posting my availability for editorial work is characteristic of quite a few such non-solutions to my evolving lack of solutions to my personal narrative, but none quite as non-aligned as this.

However, the more I read this ludicrous gibberish (and there was more… a lot more), the more I come to understand that, as a copywriter and creative marketing consultant in the late 1980s, a Solutions Architect is exactly what I was.

By ‘solution architecture material’, the alien who has written to me is, most probably, referring to what, in business-friendly language, we used to call the ‘product briefing’.  As such, it would generally contain  the ‘solution narrative’, or (as we used to know it), the ‘text’ of the ‘solution documentation set’, or ‘handbook’, as it’s sometimes referred to behind closed doors.

The context for this fearful assault on language and meaning is, I am sorry to say, financial services.

I spent three and a half years working for a direct marketing agency – ‘direct marketing’ being business-friendly language for ‘junk mail’. We specialised in pushing financial products – loans, mortgages, pensions, savings schemes, insurance, invoice discounting – call them what you will, onto ordinary consumers and small business elves. Our clients were some of the biggest ogres in the business.

We would regularly receive briefs from bewildered marketing fairies who had been tasked with creating evermore complex products to suck punters into a state of infantile dependence on the large financial institutions, banks basically, to which they would be indebted for the rest of their lives, or from which they would receive a pitiful rate of interest as a reward for long-term investments that almost certainly would go ‘down, as well as up’ – only rather less of the latter.

What characterised those briefs was often that the manager would have very little idea of what the ‘product’ was supposed to look like, or how it worked – how it translated into an actual ‘service’ that the victims in the target market could easily grasp and immediately see the benefit of – and would rely on us – me – to tell them. Behind them stood the Compliance Officer, a formidable eminence grise who would vet anything we wrote for compliance with the Financial Services Act – basically, a set of rules unenforceable in practice, warning us not to make promises on our clients’ behalf that they couldn’t keep.

Or, to couch it in Harvey Nash recruiterballs: ‘Understand what the programme will deliver from a business and benefits perspective and advise on areas where this in (sic) not aligned with the evolving solution….’

The compliance regime ultimately fell apart as the jobbers of the financial services industry rushed like Gadarene Swine over the cliff of massive overconfidence and money-lust. Globalisation of banks and the marketisation of financial ‘products’ – instruments, as they used to be known – sold like cans of beans, created a plethora of ‘solutions’ we deliberately labelled with come-on lines like ‘How to have the things you want – when you want them’.

This was marketingspeak for ‘unsecured debt’, otherwise ‘credit’, a cynical misdescription intended to leave people feeling in control of their lives even as they slide down what one of our financial clients used to call ‘the greasy chute’.

Now, I see, ‘debt’ has been relabelled once again, and is known as ‘solutions’.

The whole rickety, rackety structure came crashing down in 2008 with the run on the Northern Rock building society in the UK, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the revelation that sub-prime mortgages in the USA were being ‘bundled’ and traded as debt swaps, or ‘derivatives’, with intermediaries claiming fat commissions with each successive trade. (Not an original concept: I have written elsewhere about the massive reinsurance scam within the Lloyds of London syndicates in the mid-80s, the outrageous confidence trick underwriters perpetrated in sucking-in hundreds of new Names with unlimited liability to shore up the £6bn black hole they had created.)

Despite the crash, all this shit and more is still going on. For a horrifyingly good read over the breakfast table, I recommend you all rush immediately to Wikipedia’s List of Bank Failures in the USA, 2008-14. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bank_failures_in_the_United_States_%282008%E2%80%93present%29). Read it and gasp.

If there is one piece of advice I would leave to future generations, it is this.

 ‘Establish solution limitations.’

Or, in business-friendly language, stay away from banks.

How to live in a stately home #3 (Small organs in the morning)

 

I make no apology for the borrowing of, but freely acknowledge as my source The Lady magazine Classifieds for, the following small ad:

Household Couple £60,000, Berkshire Estate

 Experienced and loyal household couple for professional husband and wife with a large beautiful estate in Berkshire.  Top accommodation provided. The ideal couple need to be enthusiastic and committed to get the job done well. Overseeing gardener and two staff, taking care of maintenance within the grounds, large residence & properties/land with animals within the estate.  Experience with art & valuable items a plus.  Top housekeeping required; laundry, ironing, cooking (not formal), shopping driving, errands etc. The couple travel up to 3 months per year. Top refs required.  Working weekends essential.  £60,000 + bens.

I don’t think I’d be particularly loyal to my present employer either, with that kind of money on offer. Downton Abbey rates, it ain’t. Reliable servants are becoming like gold dust nowadays, but sixty grand? That’s almost half a Prime Minister.

Which is why I am particularly pissed-off that, despite my nearly seven years’ experience of looking after a large country mansion for its largely absentee owners, I am still trying to find another job two-and-a-half years after leaving their employ, and broke as hell.

At my ‘stately home’ – a dilapidated Gormenghast of a place, inadequately heated and positively groaning with the spirits of the departed – I was paid just £13k a year to be the gardener, the groundsman, the handyman, the driver, the housekeeper, the cleaner, the cook, the receptionist, the waiter, the barman, the chambermaid, the business manager and PR man, the laundryman and the licensee.

One of the main reasons, I suspect – apart from my age, Special Branch file and dismal credit record – for my lack of subsequent success at finding work may simply be that I am not a ‘couple’.

Unless you count little Hunzi, whose idea of Good Housekeeping is to lick stuff off the floor. Scat, of course, has her award for Good Mousekeeping, although she has taken annoyingly to slaughtering her victims in my bathtub, where I find bloody smears and small organs in the morning.

Still, better than on the Aubusson rug.