Friday, 26 November 2010

Gross Happiness Product

How many of us sit there working our way through Facebook’s greatest quizes “what colour is your soul”,  or “what kind of job should you have”.   How happy do we feel afterward getting the results.  Today I found out that I’m “simply normal”  My “soul is red”  and I’m “Monica from friends”. 

These are three things I already knew.  Facebook even has an app to work out the percentage of your days spent on Facebook working out things you already knew.

Familiar endings provide best re-run potential.  No one in their right mind would buy Sixth Sense on DVD having already watched it.  M Night Shyamalan really didn’t have DVD afterlife in mind. However you might like to buy The Hangover for instance.

A quick look at 2009’s best selling DVDs shows how re-run potential works; Twilight, Transformers, Mall Cop, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, all firmly conform to genre expectation.
The truth is, we absolutely polls and quizzes. We are addicted to them.  

News voraciously grabs statistics, spilling out news stories like genre aisles at Water stones: political thriller, historical drama, disaster, war drama, crime fiction. You pick, according to your tastes. It has very little to do with everyday life, but enforces the "habitus” of unquestioned rules as French critic Bourdieu puts it .

For the student riots you can pick a front cover of Crime- Fiction featuring pictures of smashed glass, or a lone girl guarding a police van take by The Metro;  a heart-warming, understated holiday read.  

Even the less numerical among us can’t avert our eyes from the top super-food to eat this week, the university league tables,  how many women readers would recommend Herbal Essences conditioner to their friends. 

The Happiness Index.
The Coalition government’s proposed mass poll named “The Happiness Index” criticised as a smokescreen, is actually a rather clever plan, afterall,  the government needs to look like it has a heart. 

Following in the tradition of a Himalayan kingdom’s plan in the 1970’s to replace GDP with Gross National Happiness,  the government is utilising the life affirming power of polls abundant on Facebook and other social networks.
It’s a poll to which we already know the answers.  A poll which might as well be commissioned by L’Oreal .

The result will be as predictable as Costas “ 7 out of 10 coffee lovers prefer Costa”   (small print: Cappuccinos) but when it comes out we will voraciously devour it for glimmers of meaning.

Will that satisfy us? 

NO. Straight after in the evening you will zone into more relaxing quiz taking along the lines of “What should your name be?” and spend the night subconsciously thinking that destiny (the mystical orthodoxy of Facebook) decreed you to have this new name.

The feature that makes this poll different from a Facebook poll is that some authoritative organisation has been paid to put their stamp of approval on it: The British Skin Foundation, The Institute of Trichologists, The Cocoa Foundation.

Companies want the endorsement of researchers; researchers continue to exist thanks to companies with a lot of money to spend.

The Office of National Statistics will be gathering data for The Happiness Index. This government statistics engine accounts for some 4/5 of all national stats.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy is issuing a similar gauge because rioters smashing things up, blocking petrol stations and halting flights isn’t clear enough to forecast national mood; we need it in digestible percentages.  

Polls are “easy-reading in a society where news is often read on the go while travelling. Here’s one, “Chocolate makes you depressed "   it’s readable, relevant and at first glance appears substantiated.

Chocolate makes you depressed- research in archives of internal medicine shows that those who eat at least a bar every week are more glum than those who only eat chocolate now and again.”

Fair enough.  A science based think tank has put their stamp on it, but let’s look at the next paragraph.

“Dr Natalie Rose....from the University of California says there are many possible explanations for their may simply be that people who are depressed crave chocolate as a self treatment to lift the mood”.  

Oh dear so you’re giving us lifestyle altering information that hasn’t yet been proved. How come?

“As this study shows, more research is needed to determine exactly what the relationship between chocolate and our mood is”.

We’ve just sat and read something we already knew.

Sound familiar?

It appeals to us as an audience who like their story diet exactly the way it is.
In our capital society, everyone has a vested interest because everyone needs money.

So the NHS with a vested interest in promoting nicotine patches sponsors a survey of the effects of passive smoking. Two completely different results are had if you reword your question. 

“Do you think people should have the right to smoke if they choose”?  Appeals to a sense of freedom of action, whilst
“Do you think smokers are a threat to the health of non smokers?” appeals to health fears.

If the poll doesn’t work the way you want, reword your questions;   if Ireland says no to joining the E.U, you reword the way you ask and offer more money until they say ‘go on then’.

We have to accept statistic's life affirming function and not take them too seriously. After all, we wouldn’t sue if we had followed our horoscope into disaster would we?  Gross Happiness Product instead of GDP is a nice thought though.

What do you think?   Comments.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Indexes replace Kate Middleton in Glamour mags.

Indexes are the hot thing at the moment. (e.g. the happiness index) They look good in fur and flower print. Kate Middleton may have a run for her money for the cover of glamour mags UK wide.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Camden Kids Below The Poverty Line

Camden’s own Comprehensive Spending Review will be finalised on 23 November, revealing the "knock on effects" of the spending cuts in the borough.

Specific departments were wary about giving figures or inferring a down-grade of their services to the public but the key word floating around was "reorganise".

Councils including Camden have made efforts to be transparent about their spending, publishing the salaries and bonuses of their senior staff accounting for 2.77 million this annum.

Deputy Head Mr Mcnaught of Maria Fidelis Convent School said “we have to seriously think about how to reorganise”.The state school in a now largely Muslim area still retains its “convent”status with a small grant from the Catholic Church.

The deputy head said the Church’s grant is fixed and not likely to increase. Two nuns remain the authority figures of the school and “nothing gets passed without going through them."

Faith schools still remain "heaven on Earth" for some parents, whilst the Prime Minister has publically expressed his support in saying that their "culture and ethos" can help standards improve.

Unemployment was earmarked by Camden council as the biggest cause of deprivation. Eighteen percent of young people in the borough between16 and 24 claim unemployment benefit, above the London average.

On theJobseekers Direct-gov website a keyword search of “Camden” produces 100 hits. According to the DPW there were 453 thousand unfilled vacancies throughout the UK in the three months to October 2010, up 20,000 over the year.

One unattractive position meeting national minimum wage and working unsociable hours asks for an experienced security guard for 12 hr night shifts, 48 hours a week.

Camden council’s Fostering Service currently match children to homes in “3-4 days on average.
Spending cuts could mean more private agencies being used to find foster homes, which are currently a last resort.

The Camden Fostering Department suggested children in Camden are faced with more complex domestic problems, e.g. sexual abuse and neglect, while “outside Camden, drugs and alcohol are the norm".

Almost half of children in Camden are classed as below the poverty line. The results of a survey from June this year highlighted money as the key reason for parents spending on average 48 minutes with their children a day.

Dr Rosemary Keenan of The Catholic Children's Society said " It is sadly a symptom of modern life that parents have to work such long hours to afford a higher standard of living, or to make ends meet."

Sunday, 14 November 2010

UK is more corrupt than Qatar.

The 2010 International Corruption Index, a controversial assessment of perceived levels of corruption placed UK in 20th position below Qatar, a gas/oil export country.  This is a step down from the UK's 2009 result.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Worldometers - real time world statistics

Worldometers - real time world statistics

Fat sand rats are SAD like us: Research shines a light on a mood disorder

Fat sand rats are SAD like us: Research shines a light on a mood disorder

The Top 50 least corrupt countries.

 International World Corruption Index TOP 50

Country Rank
Country / Territory
CPI 2010 Score
CPI 2009 Score
CPI 2008 Score
1 Denmark 9.3 9.3 9.3
1 New Zealand 9.3 9.4 9.3
1 Singapore 9.3 9.2 9.2
4 Finland 9.2 8.9 9
4 Sweden 9.2 9.2 9.3
6 Canada 8.9 8.7 8.7
7 Netherlands 8.8 8.9 8.9
8 Australia 8.7 8.7 8.7
8 Switzerland 8.7 9 9
10 Norway 8.6 8.6 7.9
11 Iceland 8.5 8.7 8.9
11 Luxembourg 8.5 8.2 8.3
13 Hong Kong 8.4 8.2 8.1
14 Ireland 8 8 7.7
15 Austria 7.9 7.9 8.1
15 Germany 7.9 8 7.9
17 Barbados 7.8 7.4 7
17 Japan 7.8 7.7 7.3
19 Qatar 7.7 7 6.5
20 United Kingdom 7.6 7.7 7.7
21 Chile 7.2 6.7 6.9
22 Belgium 7.1 7.1 7.3
22 United States 7.1 7.5 7.3
24 Uruguay 6.9 6.7 6.9
25 France 6.8 6.9 6.9
26 Estonia 6.5 6.6 6.6
27 Slovenia 6.4 6.6 6.7
28 Cyprus 6.3 6.6 6.4
28 United Arab Emirates 6.3 6.5 5.9
30 Israel 6.1 6.1 6
30 Spain 6.1 6.1 6.5
32 Portugal 6 5.8 6.1
33 Botswana 5.8 5.6 5.8
33 Puerto Rico 5.8 5.8 5.8
33 Taiwan 5.8 5.6 5.7
36 Bhutan 5.7 5 5.2
37 Malta 5.6 5.2 5.8
38 Brunei 5.5 5.5 0
39 Korea (South) 5.4 5.5 5.6
39 Mauritius 5.4 5.4 5.5
41 Costa Rica 5.3 5.3 5.1
41 Oman 5.3 5.5 5.5
41 Poland 5.3 5 4.6
44 Dominica 5.2 5.9 6
45 Cape Verde 5.1 5.1 5.1
46 Lithuania 5 4.9 4.6
46 Macau 5 5.3 5.4
48 Bahrain 4.9 5.1 5.4
49 Seychelles 4.8 4.8 4.8
50 Hungary 4.7 5.1 5.1
50 Jordan 4.7 5 5.1

Students and Part Time Work

waiter holding drinks on tray Of all the words flying around in the careers arena, "transferable skills" and "voluntary experience" win the tally.Years of telling young people to be employable is paying off-

but are the days of law students playing waitress and serving Pinot Grigio to pot-bellied businessmen coming to an end?   

" I don't want a waiting job" says one student to an employment advisor.  One reason for this is that the majority of graduates want the kind of lifestyle where being served upon is common place. 

Secondly the hospitality industry is notorious for having the grouchiest bosses in the land. Although there are plenty of relaxation therapies for students nowadays, additional stress is surely better avoided. 

Janki Amin, employment coodinator at London Metropolitan University says "alot of students fail to understand how certain jobs are relevant". 
Janki is surprised how most students come to her for jobs specifically in their field e.g. marketing, law.  She added that students are missing out on transferable skills. 

Those who come scouting for jobs are first after some extra pocket money, and second to spice up the CV. The stressful perils of pint-pulling, charity mugging and plate balancing are avoided for more-up market,  field relevant roles.

One type of job vacancy proved a big hit at the LMU jobs fair in October this year. The  Census provides students with flexi work conducting surveys.  Still.  Less stressful than telesales. 

Life is different for the full time Hilton receptionist, whose day to day career consists of answering the phone, dialing '1' and sweet-talking a balding 40-something into a promotion.

Employers say that students are flexible making them ideal to fill temporary positions. The casual labour is attractive especially to small companies who can ditch staff when business is low. 

Students are more inclined to accept a living wage of £7.85 an hour or below  in London, or £6-£7 outside London.According to government stats, there are currently 5.4 million people in workless homes, up 26000 from last year.  

Students seem to be filling a temp.  labour gap that unemployed households could be tapping into. This does not seem fair on the 16.1% of children in workless families. 

The Student Union vice president at LMU says that it is better for students to work part time in their university, bringing the study and work environment closer. With around 20 vacancies for over 30,000 at LMU, a select few benefit from this experience. 

The N.U.S agrees with the GCAS recommended 20 hours max working hours for full-timers.                                              

For students unsuccessful at vying for paid placements, the voluntary sector preaches a seductively quick route to sparkling up a CV, or filling in a nervous gap.

Check with your employment field first to see if shoveling up weeds in a community garden, or practising  to make the perfect cappuchino will work wonders for your graduate placement bid at Ralph Lauren, BBC or Clifford Chance and -

if it all gets too much for you, there's always yoga.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010








What's it about?

Song numbers and barbershop scenes galore in this remake of Aakrosh.


Priyadarshan directs the star studded, high drama, feast for the eyes, leaving his usual rom-com on the fringes to tackle the highly fraught political subject of honour-killings.


Check- exaggerated action sequences- Devgn's fluid monkey climbing while giving directions on a moving car-top),  Bipasha changes out of her sari for the song numbers and a background love story played out between Ajay Devgn and Bipasha Basu. 


The CBI officers Siddhant and Aditya, played by Akshaye Kumar and Ajay Devgn investigate the disappearance of three medical students in a backwater village.


Their efforts are frustrated by locals muted by fear and the sloppy, corrupt local police, who are more often than not down the barber shop, or drinking, or both.  

The backstory: 

This is the third remake of Aakrosh, (1980, 1998)

Is it worth an evening and a tub of popcorn?    
For a western audience, the detective duo gives a nod to the Lethal Weapon type cop pairing we all know and love.

It's all strung together by an elaborate and somewhat convoluted plot-line. An enjoyable outing and experimental foray for Priyadarshan, with a very memorable car chase and suspenseful action scenes including the hacking to death of three youngsters. 

There's always bags of humour though to provide light relief as well as an interval to stretch your legs.

How to survive the Worst Effects of the Spending Cuts

It's dark, dingy and distinctively Tory, but don't worry there is a way to escape these Eton boys.

1) Burn Books For Fuel

This won't be popular with some, however if you've seen The Day After Tomorrow book burning is sometimes pivotal to survival.  

You don't need to wait til the Earth freezes over either.  The following list shows the first books to be burn, categorised by their adverse effects on society

1) Academic books about the internet dated before 2000
2) Anything by Stephanie Meyer

 2) Live In Jamaica

Certain areas of Jamaica have such a low cost of living for us Brits that £1000 could last you a whole year. No promises on the quality of adode though.

Endure working at Tesco for a few months, then jet out to Jamaica for the rest of the year. 

This idea came from a Jamaican. Be prepared to be marked down for class participation though.

3) From artsy to nerd in sixty seconds.

If your plan was to join the Welsh National Opera Company when you graduate, then maybe  think again. Arts touring budgets are being cut by 64% as funding for the arts e.g. The Arts Council England, falls under the Axe of Austerity.

One option is to change tack altogether and join the subservient bandwagon of "more strategic subjects". 

So put down your paint-brushes (or these days Photo-Shop) and go back to school to brush-up on your maths.

Creative people are still associated with Socialism and revolt.  It goes back a few hundred years ago to the days of the outspoken pamphleteers, but you don't want to know about that...

4) Keep Hold of Your Job.

If you're not quite adventurous enough to try Jamaica, then simply keep a tight trip on that job, whether its pint-pulling, shelf-stacking, charity mugging, or plate-carrying.  

Relying on benefits won't cut it anymore. Ian Duncain Smith wants you all working. 

The public sector might well shrivel away in the next few years to be replaced by conservative friendly corporations. 

Your weekly Job Seeker's Allowance will consist of bonus Tesco club card points, and BP vouchers-which effectively means you have to spend more to get more.

5) Get Yourself a Private Swiss Bank Account.

Normally we would recommend you have a normal student account at somewhere like Natwest-the kind that comes with a nice £500 overdraught, and a free Ipod that you mistake for something out of a cereal box and throw away.

But now the time has come to look further afield-Switzerland to be exact. 

With a private Swiss bank account you can hide away your cash in a fancy vault where tax men rarely tread-largely because office workers don't even crawl out of the office for Subway anymore.

HSBC'S Richard Green won't be able to help you anymore. The poor fellow is now earning peanuts as Cameron's new trade spin doctor. 

So work a few extra shifts in the library, or at the bar.

6) Buy a Yacht.

David Cameron has been known to consort with Richard Murdoch on his yacht occasionally. 

It's possible that in exchange for his airfare (private jet)  and a marvellous on-deck champaigne reception,  Cameron will "turn a blind eye" to whatever megalomaniac, egotistical, ethically warped business you are engaged in e.g. tax dodging and sweatshops.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The new Green movement has a dark side.

Sweatshops, child labour, dodgy trade ministers, corporate sponsored murder and PR spin doctors. 

This is the talk about a shadowy world from which our sugary drinks and 5 pound tops come to us. A world we disturbingly know very little about.

Of course we hear alot of good things as well. Alot of things that the sceptical might just call "a soppy lefty" movement of "neo-hippies".

The Sunny Side of the Coin.                             

Recently  Bicester in Oxfordshire was made the 500th fairtrade town. This fairtrade movement spans 19 countries.

"Green labelling" has become the norm now. It's even become fashionable. Celebrities love to be seen in and promoting  "earth" brands.  Every company from Coco-cola to Starbucks is slapping them on their products.

Here's just a few: Coco partnered with WWF to protect watersheds paying 20 million dollars in 2007, the Costa Foundation,  Pepsico the largest beverage brand in the world funding nutrition research, Starbucks Fairtrade, Primarks ethical guarantee (Ethical Trade initiative), the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation.

Try this: type in an actor's name and put "foundation" after it.  Nine times out of ten you will find an organisation dedicated to saving the world, trees, tigers, nuclear disarmament. 

Most of these were set up in between Sadam Hussain's death sentence and Leona Lewis winning the X factor.

In the last year, our favourite chocolate bars such as Nestle and Cadbury's have gone fairtrade as being "green" is becoming normalised and trendy.

The director of India Resource Centre an anti-globalisation organisation in India says there is a sinister underbelly at work.

The Dark Side of the Coin.

"Corporate Social Responsibility is primarily a public relations exercise which allows companies to continue abuses in one area while advertising some social or environmental project elsewhere..." says Ami Shrivastava.
Coca-Cola workers murdered in Colombia. intimidated, tortured, kidnapped, illegally 
detained by paramilitary allegedly linked to Coco-cola.

    * 07/30/90 — Avelino Achicanoy — Pasto Plant
    * 04/08/94 — Jose Eleazar Manco David — Carepa Plant
    * 04/20/94 — Luis Enrique Giraldo Arango — Carepa Plant
    * 04/23/95 — Luis Enrique Gomez Granado — Carepa Plant
    * 12/05/96 — Isidro Segundo Gil — Carepa Plant
    * 12/26/96 — Jose Librado Herrerra Osorio — Carepa Plant
    * 06/21/01 — Oscar Dario Soto Polo — Monteria Plant
    * 08/31/02 — Adolfo de Jesus Munera Lopez — Barranquilla Plant

Primark stampede
India Resouces doesn't think that non-profit organizations should work with for-profit corporations to increase their market share.  It 

" Makes them look good, look greener, and more people will buy Coca-Cola because it can claim a “green” tag."

Its hard to tell if brands have a heart or if they just want to silence their critics and get more dosh from the new  "green"  market of consumers.

The principle is based on distraction. If challenged globally about their abuse in India they point to conservation projects elsewhere. . 

" But conserving water in China does nothing for the community in India who they deprive of water." says Ami.   The government of Kerala in South India filed for $48 million compensation from Coco-cola . Charges included draining water tables dry, diseases, water and air pollution.

Coca-cola India responsed by citing
their project with SOS Children's Villages of India on the Rainwater Harvesting Project at Anangpur, recently completed. This is our "commitment towards community development and water conservation".

The Killer Coke campaign was set up following sinister kidnappings and murder in Latin America of Coco-cola employers.  Coco-cola were linked to paramilitary thugs and the
Colombian Administrative Department of Security  

Lawsuits were filed against The Coca-Cola Company and its bottlers in Colombia in July 2001 and June 2006. They sued on behalf of SINALTRAINAL, the major union representing Coke workers in Colombia, several of its members and the survivors of two murdered union leaders, Isidro Gil and Adolfo de Jesus Munera. 

The case was thrown out but Killer Coke says "it was discovered that the judge may have had serious conflicts of interest. The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke believes Judge Martinez should be recused in light of his strong ties to the University of Miami and its athletics, which are intertwined with Coca-Cola".   Coco-cola says it has been cleared  of allegations.

Primark, which has gone from that place you get cheap clothes from on the quiet, to consumers shamelessly marauding baskets of goodies under ten pound, was mercilessly stalked by expose documentaries during the 00's. showing child labour and sweatshops in India, and even here in the UK.  Primark got its own "green label" in 2006 with ETI,  a not for profit organisation that takes on and helps members committed to improving their ethics.

When a documentary exposed a sweatshop linked to them in Manchester, they were immediately ordered to take the label off their website and stores.

ETI says
"Primark and other companies have struggled to monitor thousands of suppliers".
Being green has become so fashionable that even big global brands are being forced to cash in.  This year green friendly Innocent agreed a deal with Coco-cola to take their brand to the four corners of the world.  Money still talks bigger than values