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Re-writing history

August 9th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I have been building up quite a collection of Robert Rankin books on my Kindle. He keeps doing special offers on his birthday or a christmas where one or two are free and others are at reduced price for a short while and I snap them up.

This is not just me being tight, I just don’t want to pay full price for books I already have and have already read several times, but I am OK with paying 99p to have an e-copy I can take with me when I am travelling.

Anyway, over the last couple of weeks I have been re-reading the Armageddon series. These are probably my least favourite of Rankin’s books and I thought I would get them out of the way first.

During the second book I had a feeling that it might have been subtly changed from the old paper copy I have. It was in one of those bits where the characters are taking about the book they are in I think, and there was passing mention of the publishers, Far-Fetched Books. I was fairly certain that was a company Rankin set up fairly recently to buy up the rights to his older books and re-publish them, so it didn’t exist at the time the book was written.

In the third book of the series (The Suburban Book of the Dead) there is passing mention of Lady Gaga, which stopped me in my tracks a bit. When the book was first published Lady Gaga was only six years old.

It now has me wondering what other little changes were made prior to the re-publication. Those two only stood out because they were anachronistic – quite fitting since all three stories feature time travel with some very deliberate anachronisms that get acknowledged openly by the author and also by characters themselves.

I dare say that some obsessives have gone through the versions line by line and put all the differences online somewhere, perhaps even on the Golden Sprout site.

By the way, I am not complaining about this. I’m sure that plenty of books could do with periodic tweaking to maybe update topical cultural references, or embarrassingly superseded technology. I remember reading an EE ‘Doc’ Smith book set in the distant future that mentions the Bakelite control panel of a spaceship for example, and a Harry Harrison book writeen when 386 computers were the cutting edge that mentions a 586 computer to help establish that it is hundreds of years in the future.

Of course there is an argument that these period details give books a certain charm and that you wouldn’t keep re-writing Shakespeare to bring it up to date – though plenty of people do that one way or another.

I’m not particularly bothered one way or another, but it does mean that when I do re-read all those Rankin books on the Kindle there is still the chance I could get surprised, even if it is a book I have read two or three times before.

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Catching up

August 9th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Music

During this week I have been using Spotify to catch up on some of those things I missed out on the first time around.

Sometimes it gets a bit embarrassing to realise just how many popular and important albums I have never even heard or properly listened to. Only slighly embarrassing though, because I know the reasons. [Read more →]

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Laffer spotting

August 4th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

I had a real surprise the other day. I was watching Sky News and they had an interview with Arthur Laffer, the bloke who has that curve named after him.

For some reason I had always just assumed that the Laffer curve, and by implication Laffer himsef, were a lot less recent than that. I just imagined him being perhaps a contemporary of Friedman and therefore probably either dead or extremely ancient. It turns out he is only 73 but looked a lot younger than that. It turns out that the eponymous curve only came to fame in 1974! [Read more →]

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This is an ex-Python. It is no more.

July 21st, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Well I watched the last ever Monty Python show on TV almost live (had to pause it to take the dogs over the field) and was a bit underwhelmed.

To be fair, I think this was one of things where you just had to be there. I remember watching an old episode of Fawlty Towers, plus a couple of the John Cleese training videos at the Barbican with about 100 Python fanatics and the atmosphere and laughter was infectious. I’m sure people at the O2 had a great time, but I don’t think the stage show translated well to the TV, which is ironic considering that that it was really a live version of a TV show.

It did not help us at home that the performers were playing to the audience in the room, which is of course what they should be doing. You do sometimes see a film of a live show where the performers are playing to the cameras and the cameras are all over the stage obscuring the audience’s view and wonder why the audience don’t kick off more about paying through the nose to be treated as set dressing, so fair play to the Pythons for that.

To be even fairer, I think that I really wanted it to be the funniest thing ever in the world so it didn’t have to be terrible to be disappointing. It just had to not be the funniest thing in the world ever. I feel bad for not enjoying it more. [Read more →]

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An advertising question

July 18th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Saw a TV advert the other day. It was for a specific product, said how good it was, then mentioned how it was on special offer at a specific supermarket and ended with that supermarket’s branding.

Who would have placed the advert? The manufacturer or the supermarket? Both working together? Maybe the supermarket placed the ad and the manufacturer stumped up towards it, or gave them a discount on a shipment to enable the cheap price. Or maybe the manufacturer placed the ad but the supermarkey has agreed to some prominent aisle position for the product in return for the publicity?

How do these cross-promotional things usually work?

For some reason, my 35-year-old CSE in Mass Media Studies isn’t helping me with this.

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Nearly there

July 16th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Work

So there I was last week. I was at a Bid and Project Management convention. Had my laptop all set up to do a product demo of a new tool that is nearly finished, checking emails on the BlackBerry and handing out business cards to anybody who showed an interest in our product, and it suddenly occurred to me…

…I was only a BlueTooth headset away from achieving full wankerdom!

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Health & Safety Gone Mad

June 24th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

Here is an idea. I would like to propose a change to H&S regulations to the effect that any politician who complains about health & safety regulations in the workplace is not only exempt from all such regulations themselves, but if they ever go on a photo opportunity visit to a construction site, factory, warehouse, depot, disaster site, oil rig etc. they are, under no circumstances, allowed to wear hard hats, safety goggles, hi-vis jackets or any other items of PPE.

If nothing else, it would reduce the number of tedious photo-ops of politicians in hard hats. They may moan about H&S but they do love to dress up whenever they get the chance don’t they? In an ideal world it would lead to a bit of gloriously ironic natural selection.

An extra flourish to the legislation would force them to state whether they specifically object to safety or to health.

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Starbucks culture shock

June 19th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Earlier today I watched an interview with Howard Schultz, the Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, on The Daily Show, amidst a haze of cognitive dissonance.

The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart is very much a left wing liberal in US terms but instead of ripping into Schultz for dodgy tax accounting he seemed to be on the verge of hero worship. It turns out that Starbucks operates on a much higher level of social responsibility in its homeland.

The reason for the recent interview was a recnt announcement that Starbucks in the US are going to fund a college education for all of its employees – or all of them that want it anyway. This is on top of already providing healthcare for its staff.

All of that is very laudable and quite amazing in the context of normal US employment practices, especially in the fast food/retail area and you can see why Jon Stewart would look up to that.

I was still a tiny bit surprised that there was no mention of the controversies with Starbucks outside the US because although most US media types and audiences either don’t know or care much about what happens overseas, Stewart does appear to take quite an interest in foreign affairs of all sorts.

From our UK perspective the huge irony is that while Starbucks in the US is taking money off its bottom line to provide healthcare where there is a need because there is no comprehensive public healthcare provision, over here in the UK they don’t need to do that because we have the NHS – but Starbucks manage to avoid paying the taxes to support that.

The biggest irony was in a comment that Schultz made to justify the corporate altruism in the US. He said something to the effect that it is not entirely altruistic because he still has to offer value to shareholders, and that such behaviour is good for that in the long term because consumers are very aware now. He cited the word-of-mouth of social media, saying that consumers are now very aware of the ethics of a company and can if they see a company acting unethically they can easily choose to not use that company.

At which point, if I had been in mid-sip of a cup of Starbucks I would have ended up spraying the room with it.

I do hope that somebody manages to isolate the actual quote I paraphrased and use the video clip of it in one of the many UK social media campaigns against tax avoiding companies.

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The Boys Are Back In Town

June 18th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

Guess who just got back today?
Them wild eyed boys that had been away
Haven’t changed, haven’t much to say
But man, I still think them cats are crazy

So, I went to the town hall on Friday for the annual council meeting, to see my Labour colleagues take their places back in charge and the Tories all back on the back benches. It was a good way to unwind after all the months of the campaign and the tension at the count.

I hadn’t been there for a while and it was interesting to see how much had changed and how much had stayed exactly the same. [Read more →]

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On pets, vets and the NHS

June 16th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

We have been at the vets quite a bit over the last week. One of our cats was not very well, in fact was very close to being dead. The vets got to the bottom of it, discovering a kidney problem, and more or less fixing her.

Each time I went there I had the same thoughts on the way back, namely a feeling of gratitude that I have the NHS to fall back on if I have anything wrong with me. [Read more →]

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