Life’s too Short

to watch shit comedy.

I was tired, I was vulnerable, I sat down and ended up watching a Ricky Gervais comedy: Life’s too Short.

Even during Gervais’ heights of the Office I was not really a fan, yes I could recognise it was good but it was a form of humour I never really liked. As a child I found ‘Some Mothers do have em’ embarrassing, sure some of the slapstick and stunts were excellent but on the whole I wanted Frank Spencer to come out on top just the once. The character David Brent was embarrassing to watch for different reasons but unlike Frank nearly managed to redeem himself and it was that failure that was funny.

Warwick Davis’ alter ego is selfish and crass, caring only for himself he is just a prick. And that, along with dwarf ‘jokes’ is what this comedy is about. Some critics find it funny, laugh out loud comedy, but I fail to find the funny side. The gags are laboured and dragged-out to the point of beating the viewer into submission, the comic techniques of timing, story telling and subtle twists are absent. Delivering gag after gag is a challenge, delivering good comedy is a skill that should be celebrated as true high art form.

If I knew what made great comedy I would be writing or performing it. I know what it isn’t: it is not ridicule based on sex or race or height, but ridicule of beliefs and ideas can be funny especially when we laugh at our own stupidity. Gervais has made a point of saying his ridicule of dwarfs, people in wheelchairs, celebrities, his own fans and ‘mongs’ is ironic, he is getting us to laugh at our prejudices; I am not convinced.

Great comedy is not just shock value; sadly there is too much racism, sexism, prejudice to find it shocking, but hearing my mother talk about anal sex probably would cause me to giggle.  Comedy, just like modern art, has to break ground: it is not so much that it has to be constantly original rather it has to be contemporary. Of course there will always be a fan base for the classics and I have only just watched Life of Brian again, but we watch for a different reason which is more to do with comfort and familiarity.

We tend to assume that talent and genius is enduring, that it will continue to amaze as the decades pass, but the reality is more temporary. Numerous performers show promise, the exciting first album, in the case of music, followed by the classic and then the third difficult album. Some slip into oblivion, some re-invent themselves and those ahead of their time can make a comeback but I feel it is the fans who allow a performer to continue well past their best by date and it they who do a dis-service to the art they wish to preserve.

This post is not about Ricky Gervais any more than it is about Roy Chubby Brown or Jim Davidson but he represents, in comedy terms, Mummy Bates with the fans acting like Norman. Weirdly the loyal fan base of Gervais are incredibly defensive, the comedian Richard Herring who is actively involved in SCOPE questioned Gervais’ use of ‘mong’ and then was confronted with a barrage of comment from Ricky’s fan base. Read comments that feature the topic of Gervais and there are normal opinions, that in recent years have progressively reflected the comic’s critical decline, and fans who have just wet themselves with laughter. It is almost religious and these awe struck fans have even caused Jeremy Clarkson to be publicly envious and complain that his fan base doesn’t go off into cyberspace to attack his critics.

The fan base is the interesting element, it is they who get the joke when all around them fail to see the funny side. They are the ones that allow a public body like the BBC to commission another season of tired comedy. And sadly they are the ones who take the alleged ironic use of ‘mong’ and use as the insult we spent years trying to eliminate. Quite what their psycological make-up is, is somewhat a mystery to me, some of it may be parasocial interaction where the celeb appears to directly talk to the viewer and therefore build up a ‘connection’. and perhaps it was the Office that triggered this with David Brent doing his now ubiquitous ‘look to camera’ raise eyebrows etc a technique now re-used in Life’s too Short. [this blog explores some of the fan issues]

Gervais treats his fans as loyal followers, his comment on twitter about the ‘mong’ criticism was   “Dear fans. Don’t give the haters any attention. Those people aren’t really offended by the things I say – they are offended by my success.” It doesn’t require much viewing of the man, whether it is a passing interview, his stand-up, Comic Relief , Golden Globes, the news about the Golden Globes etc etc etc to see the man is obsessed with his own celebrity but one where he portrays his fans as little better than scum. It’s a strange relationship where he tests the loyalty of his fans, whether it be insults or progressively more expensive tickets for stand-up and now the pretty rubbish television with the Life’s to Short sitcom.

A shocking child who constantly tests his doting parents would indicate a deeply insecure personality and no big surprise but then again it could be the genius of the man stretching the boundaries of comedy! Yes, OK it is unlikely but it would make a really good plot for a mockumentary!

Great, even good comedy is a rarity and perhaps the t.v. should spare us of too much comedy, more is less sometimes.

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Petrol £1.35

After collecting 100,000 electronic names on a petition on a Downing Street website campaigners had there day in Parliament, but rather than fuel tax being drastically reduced from the current 70p a litre all the backbenches asked the Chancellor to do was:

‘…consider the effect that increased taxes on fuel will have on the economy, examine ways of working with industry to ensure that falls in oil prices are passed on to consumers, to take account of market competitiveness, and to consider the feasibility of a price stabilisation mechanism that would work alongside the fair fuel stabiliser to address fluctuations in the pump price.’

quite simply, there isn’t going to be a tax cut for motorists.

But how bad are things in reality? I remember when a gallon, or 4.5 litres cost around 5 bob or 25p. Imagine that but also imagine that your average wage was just £2,000 a year.  The FT that published the last 100 years of average pay gives today’s annual average at £40,000 [a dream income to most of my friends as was £2k for my parents], anyway with a simple bit of maths [2k is 1/20 of 40k with fuel at about 7p a litre x 20 = £1.40 a litre]. VAT on fuel came in at 10% in 73.

Just three years ago fuel was only £1.10 a litre which was a heady time when income reached a peak when compared to fuel prices yet even with the increased prices we have little to complain about.  Cars are cheaper, they perform better and fuel consumption is up.

If prices appear to be going up it is simply you’re getting older and able to remember when everything was cheap but not remember how little you earnt.

If you don’t believe me here is a more authoritative study.[link]

I read the news today oh boy…….

and according to the Guardian:

Global recession grows closer as G20 summit fails

following economic news immerses  you in the detail, the impact of the Euro crisis, the state of debt in developed countries and the fear that recession will at some point tip into depression.

A state of fear grows, fear of loss, fear of the future, fear for our children.

But wait. slap yourself in the face and read some basics.

The current Global economy generates about $63 trillion [it looks like this 63,000,000,000] or £43 trillion. a year or so ago it was $5 trillion less. The human race is still busily mining, growing, making and buying stuff, in fact we are doing more of it than ever before. There are a couple of minor exceptions: contraction in GDP of a few hundred billion in South Korea and the UK but it reflects a minimal amount of growth over a period of a year rather than the beginnings of some kind of dark-age.  A lack of growth in the economy is a rarity because there is a tendency for producers to get better at their job year on year. It makes sense for businesses to economise on energy, to have more able staff and reduce costs.

Much of the so-called recession we see is visible in the financial markets where $billions are lost overnight. What happened to all that money? Did slip down the back of the sofa? Was there some great heist? The money was la-la money, a fantasy and most of it had little to do with GDP, or actually stuff.

The World may have produced $63 trillion worth of goods and services as well as a couple more trillion for illegal activities but this is nothing compared to the La-La land of the derivatives market which last year was around $600 trillion.  Derivatives which are ‘market instruments’ deriving from the real economy, such as Futures, has grown from almost nothing 20 years ago and producing nothing have a disproportionate influence on the global debt crisis.

The futures derivatives have been around as long as humans have been trading and serve a sound purpose.  An example is the potato farmer who expects 100 tons of crop in 6 months time and is promised a set price by the grocer. If there is a glut of potatoes on the market and the price per ton goes down the farmer doesn’t lose out because the price is set, likewise if there is a shortage the grocer is not forced to pay more.  The most widely used [by normal people] Derivative is the Fixed Mortgage rate over a variable one. This sounds reasonable and it is the example that the ‘money market’ wants people to hear. But just as people are very creative at working out ways to fill a casino with novel ways of making money so to the ‘market’ has taken the principle to an extreme.

If potatoes can be bought for a set price in the future so can company shares and government bonds, this is the Options game so roll up and learn the rules to this fab game of risk.  A broker can offer shares at an above market value i.e £1.20 rather than the current £1 to a buyer for a small fee of around 6%:6p and they have the option, say two months later, to buy them. This is great for the buyer if the price has risen above £1.26p as they can make a profit, if they don’t sell the seller has made 6p for their trouble. The game also extends to government bonds which are IOU notes with interest paid either at the end or maturity of the bond which can be as little as 3 months or every 6 months if the bonds are longer loans.  Bonds can become more or less valuable depending on the interest paid and how much risk, Greek bonds currently make a lot of money with excessive interest demands but buyers get nervous if they think the Greeks won’t eventually pay out, it’s all about selling at the right time.  And you can also play this game with currencies buying say, Euros with Dollars and betting on the exchange rate.

In their simple form some of these ‘instruments’ are useful: a smart phone company in the US may wish to launch in the Euro zone with a product at a set price in 6 months time but if the Euro becomes less in worth against the $ 6 months from now the phone price will not cover its costs. The phone company may hedge its bets by taking out an option on Euros and the Euro zone buyers will look to have an option [to buy] Dollars. Where it gets all weird is in the first instance you don’t have to own the shares /bonds / currency/ potatoes etc to sell options on them and the buyer then has to right to sell the option they have agreed which then can be sold on to other speculators and resold and traded.  Options and futures can then be bundled up together mixing potatoes with mortgages, oil and Greek debt and traded.  Some of these instruments become incredibly elaborate allowing low risk betting to cover more suspect deals. Even more mystical is the use of Leverage where borrowing can increase profit even when the price of the real asset may have increased in value by 10% the profit on the Derivative can be 100%.

When it comes to Derivatives I do not pretend to know anything but the basics but it should be remembered that in this unregulated area of the markets all this money making is based on nothing being produced and in the main benefiting no one beyond the speculators and dealers. What is worse is these traders are looking for a quick buck which means they move their money very quickly sometimes in as little as half an hour. All this movement, especially in currencies can destabilise them leading to drastic interest rate raises and subsequent borrowing problems. The problems become drastic for the people of affected countries and lead to reduced social care and reinvestment.

Free market capitalism is the right to make money but social responsibility must be upheld. The freedom of a few should not be allowed to sabotage the rights of the many. The Nobel price winning economist James Tobin came up with a solution to this inequality back in 1972 when Derivatives were a tiny market and currency speculation was the main problem.

Tobin summarized his idea: “The tax on foreign exchange transactions was devised to cushion exchange rate fluctuations. The idea is very simple: at each exchange of a currency into another a small tax would be levied – let’s say, 0.5% of the volume of the transaction. This dissuades speculators as many investors invest their money in foreign exchange on a very short-term basis. If this money is suddenly withdrawn, countries have to drastically increase interest rates for their currency to still be attractive. But high interest is often disastrous for a national economy, as the nineties’ crises in Mexico, Southeast Asia and Russia have proven. My tax would return some margin of manoeuvre to issuing banks in small countries and would be a measure of opposition to the dictate of the financial markets”.

The need now is greater than ever and a new Tobin or Robin Hood Tax is on the cards. Despite G20 countries, the EU and the UN talking about it for over a decade there is a real chance that it could be introduced with the EU wide European Commission’s financial transaction tax (FTT) proposal. Oxfam reckons a tax of 0.05% could raise up to $400bn which it has been proposed could go a long way in helping protect the Third World from the impact of Climate Change.

I will be no surprise that the millionaire Tory government is opposed to the idea: in the Telegraph 8/11/11 “George Osborne has condemned plans for a European Union levy on financial transactions as a “big tax on pensioners” that will lead to 995,000 job losses and not cost bankers a penny.” But the truth is always different.

In January 2008, The Economist reported that Morgan Stanley estimates that pension funds worldwide hold over US$20 trillion in assets, not quite the $600 trillion of the derivatives market; and pension funds are not big players in the derivative markets because the risks are to great. As for the job losses it appears George Osborne feared for the 995,000 jobs in the banking sector across the EU would be lost to the US and other markets.

Oh well better say by by by.

Bill Nighy stars in Robin Hood tax campaign

More than 50 charities are supporting the campaign to levy a Tobin tax on transactions between financial institutions, which can be used to help fight poverty, protect public services and tackle climate change

If you feel the need to support the EU write to your MP, EMP

I’m a New anti-Semite?!

but the Guardian and the BBC are too.

My journey to being so ‘vile’ began as I researched the anti-capitalist ‘Occupy’ movement to which the web was to eventually lead me to anti-Semitic elements within it.  Banners in the Chicago demonstration read ‘Hitler’s bank’ and ‘google Jewish billionaires’, as well as this there were a few interviews with protesters mentioning 9/11 or the banking crisis as a Jewish conspiracy.  These idiots looking for any kind publicity were featured on web sites campaigning against anti-Semitism but as I read further it seemed that a focus of concern was both the Guardian newspaper and the BBC.

News and comment that appeared to focus too heavily on Israel’s abuses rather than Palestinians’ was anti-Semitic and the accusation was even extended to the level of reporting in proportion to other world events.  My own interest is equally disproportional as is my criticism of Israel’s behaviour which makes me a New anti-Semite. This, despite the fact that behaviour of the leadership of Gaza and to lesser extent the West Bank is far worse, is because Israel is supposed to be an enlightened western democracy.

Don’t get me wrong, even though the notion of a ‘promised land’ by some bronze-age shepherd’s god is ludicrous in the modern world, Israel grew out of a century of complicated history.  If Jordan was carved out of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire as a favour to an Arab chieftain why not Israel?

Israel was created by the secular UN and therefore is a world issue and so is the plight of the Palestinians. Ironic then that the Palestinians would wish the same route to secure their future. Ultimately it will be the US that will block this symbolic if futile gesture.

Some of the Islamic nations reaction is found in newspaper cartoons that the American Anti Deformation League judged as anti-Semitic and demonizing Israel can be viewed via the link.

anti-Semitic cartoons in Arab press following the failure of Palestine to be granted nation status

A couple of the cartoons, in-particular characterises the Jew in a stereotypical and offensive way in that they are dressed in the ultra-orthodox Haredi style with a big nose. It is the use of such caricature that makes it offensive rather than the representation. A French man on a bicycle with beret, stripped jumper, moustache and onions is a false demeaning caricature but is not offensive [perhaps it is] because it has not been used to oppress the French.  The other cartoons are more difficult to judge as anti-Semitic,  anti-Israel yes but considering the plight of Palestinians is  often a convenient guise to play to the gallery this is no surprise or shock.

ADL cite these cartoons as a further example of inherent anti-Semitism throughout the Arab world and it is this which is used as another obstacle to a Palestinian settlement. Another much quoted example of Arab anti-Semitism is the use by states such as Saudi Arabia, Iran  and Syria as well as the Egyptian media of the [faked] Protocols of the Elders. A Russian propagandist pamphlet written around 1900 that purports to be the minutes and manifesto of a secret global Jewish organisation bent on the overthrow of the Russian establishment and eventual world domination.

It has been used as proof of a Zionist conspiracy by, amongst others, Henry Ford, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the now ex-tyrant Gaddafi and most of the ultra right of the last century. Like all good prophetic works it is vague enough and contradictory to fit most situations. Although rambling the key tools of the conspirators are the installation of Jews or if unavailable, Freemasons into global positions of power. The use of both communism and capitalism, liberalism, war, revolution, atheism, as well as pornography and now pop music to achieve their goals. The ‘proof’ is that Jews control the media and more importantly the banks, hence the financial crisis was orchestrated to bring about the new world order. At the centre of that crisis are firms like Goldman Sach which was indeed founded by two American Jews.  A reason perhaps why one of the cartoons features Obama in the pocket of a fat cat  Jewish banker.

It could be presumed that America’s support for Israel is a direct consequence of the control exercised by American Jews who represent just 2% of the population.  The global population of Jews is tiny at around 13 million with most either in the the US or Israel so how is it they appear to have so much power? The logic is that the Protocols of Zion must be true. Obama is just a puppet, controlled by the banks and the powerbrokers.

Personally I have wondered why presidential candidates are pressed by the media as to whether they are going to support Israel and why the Israel lobby has quite so much influence.  But what is clear is that there is no Jewish banking cabal [curiously the term for secret group comes from cabala which is the Jewish mystic sect]. As far as banking and financial businesses are concerned Jewish companies do not dominate the sector, in fact Goldman Sach is ranked 20th and Rothchilds doesn’t even make the rankings. The most successful group of companies were founded by an average mixture of cultures with the Welsh dominating through the success of Morgan Stanley and Chase Manhattan.

Search the internet for the prominence of Jews in society and you can turn to the far right whose comprehensive list will prove Jewish control or to the Zionist camp which will do much the same to prove how special they are. Wikipedia has a list of American Jews that features a lot of names from the film and media business, and surprising the names of just four current US politicians. There is also a list of notable Americans of Irish descent that includes half of all presidents as well as plenty of well known actors and businessmen; curiously the most noted American anti-Semites were Ford and Disney, both of Irish descent.

The number of US politicians of Irish descent is far more disproportional than rest of the US population so perhaps there is a secret Irish conspiracy for world domination. All of this is foolish talk and that goes for any Zionist conspiracy but in the Arab World [and Persian] it would appear to be logical that Zionists have a disproportionate control over US and therefore UN policy.

Relations between Israel and the US have cooled during the Obama presidency with Obama actively seeking a settlement but ultimately it is the US voter who in the main supportive of Israel.  It is not the Jewish vote, although their small numbers are in key swing states, but the American fundamentalist right. Evangelical Christians need the State of Israel to exist and even expand to a notional historical Israel to fulfil prophesy of the second coming. Read some of the Tea Party movement’s literature and it’s plain that support for Israel is fundamental political dogma.  Both sectors have a frightening amount of power.

Earlier in the year Obama not only sought to make closer bonds with the Arab world but also saw the pre 1967 as the starting point for negations for a two state solution. Perhaps it would have been a step to far and political suicide to support the symbolic acceptance of Palestine to the UN even if  Palestine was moved up from observer status to that of the Vatican which is observer state status.

for a reasonable balanced understanding of the plight of the Palestinian people I would recommend the link below.

http://www.btselem.org/