The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

And Now The End Is Near …
November 17, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment, Fatherhood

So this week is the last week of this blog.

Probably not for ever, but it could be.

That might mean nothing to you [other than sheer, utter, relief], but to me it’s a big, big thing.

You see in the almost 9 years of writing this rubbish, it has given me a lot of stuff.

Not just an endless stream of headaches and insults … but also a bunch of new and clever friends … a load of interesting opinions and thoughts and even the occasional moment of delusional brilliance.

Not bad for something I started to simply give me 2 minutes a day to think about stuff that didn’t involve all the usual advertising bollocks you get caught up in.

But now, 9 years later, it might be time to hang up the keyboard.

Emphasis on ‘might’.

I should point out this is not because I’ve run out of things to say – because let’s be honest, I’ve been repeating the same 6 subjects for at least 7 years – but because in a couple of weeks, my son will be born.

Holy Fuck.

To be honest, I don’t know whether I’m ready.

And I certainly don’t know what to expect.

In some ways, I’ve only just come to terms with the fact it’s happening.

No, I’m being serious.

It was only when we actually created his bedroom did it start to sink in.

Before that, I could have easily conned myself into thinking my wife had simply been eating a lot of her amazing cakes.

But she hasn’t, she’s going to be delivering our first child.

Our son.

When I think about it, I become unbelievably emotional.

I was recently on a flight and a documentary called, ‘The Secret Life Of Children’ came on.

Within 2 minutes, I was sobbing.

Not out of fear [I think], but emotion … because despite knowing where babies come from for quite a long time now [allegedly!], only now do I really appreciate how amazing it all is.

Which has led to me facing a whole host of conflicting emotions and questions.

Will I be a good father?

Will I do the right thing?

Will I teach him what is important?

Just how messy will he make my/our obsessively tidy house?

It’s all a total head-fuck to be honest and that’s before I even think about the pressure of finalising a name for the little sod.

But what’s also interesting is what hasn’t really crossed my mind.

I never doubted Jill would be an amazing mother.

I’ve known that since the moment I met her.

But since we found out on April 1st, this fact has been reiterated to me every single day.

Quite frankly, I’m in awe of how she has handled this pregnancy.

Graceful. Calm. Radiant. Beautiful.

She has helped me understand what it really means when people say pregnant women ‘blossom’.

In the past, I used to think it was a euphemism for ‘get big’ … but it isn’t.

It’s not even a polite way of saying that their cheeks are flushed due to the increase in body temperature.

No, it’s more than that … it’s a change in how they are.

You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you feel it is the final stage of their evolution … where the birth of a child makes them ‘whole’.

It’s weird, I can’t quite explain it but I do know that ‘blossom’ is the most perfect word to describe how they are.

The other thing that hasn’t really crossed my mind is his ‘health’.

Maybe I’m utterly stupid, but I am utterly confident he will be a healthy, bouncing, baby boy.

And yet I know scans can’t identify everything.

And I’ve seen friends go through terrible situations with their children.

But for some reason it has not crossed my mind.

Not once.

It could be because I don’t want to think about it.

It could be that having seen the pain that Andy and his wife went through with Bonnie [which thankfully all turned out well], I don’t want to invite any negativity in my head.

But I haven’t given it a second thought.

As I said, maybe that’s stupid.

Maybe I’m setting myself up for trouble in the future … but while I have given ample consideration to the legacy I want to give my son, I have not given any practical consideration to the state of his health.

With all the madness that has surrounded me – and us – with the impending birth of our first child, one thing has been a constant beacon of joy to me.

My Mum.

Seeing and hearing the excitement in her face and voice about her first grandchild has been wonderful.

To be honest, if I’d seen how happy it would make her, I’d of done it years ago.

But she never placed pressure on me to do it. She knew it was something we needed to decide, not something others could try and dictate.

And for that I thank her. Again.

So as we enter this final week, I apologise in advance for the sentimental tone of the subsequent 4 days of posts.

As I said, maybe this blog will continue at some point in the future – possibly with copious amounts of pictures of my little boy with statements about “how advanced he is for his age” – but if it doesn’t, I want to say thank you to all of you for absolutely everything.

Even the insults.

It’s been a pleasure.

Talk Is Cheap …
November 14, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

One thing that really annoys me about planners is that we’re incredibly good at spouting a whole bunch of theories but rarely put our money where our mouth is at.

OK, what annoys me more is when we spout theories that have already been used and known for decades, but because we use ‘cool sounding names’, we act like we invented it.

Behavioural economics anyone?

Anyway, I get super-frustrated by people who spout theory … do nothing about it … and then, when something seems to prove their point of view, act like they were Nostradamus or something.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely guilty of it and I’m certainly not denouncing the importance of thinking about things … but if we’re not prepared to find ways to undeniably prove it’s validity, we are undermining ourselves and our discipline.

Of course there are many reasons this happens.

Lots of us are lazy. We rarely are given the time or the money to prove something. We all like running after the next new, new thing rather than take a moment to see if we truly understand and appreciate the old, old thing. And – if I’m being honest – our industry doesn’t really like being too ‘academic’ about stuff because we believe it could limit our creative freedom going forward.

Is that true?

Possibly … but working in China – a land with more rules and obstacles than almost any other major advertising market on earth – I’m of the view these things actually force you to be more creative, rather than less.

Anyway, the reason I’m saying all this is that I read an amazing story about a Professor who was desperate to prove his theory was correct to a bunch of medical practitioners.

Back in 1983, there was a conference in Las Vegas for the American Urological Association.

Professor Giles Brindley, a British physiologist, had been working on a project to prove phenoxybenzamine – an alpha-blocking smooth muscle relaxant – could help men who were suffering from erectile disfunction.

Despite having presented numerous papers at scientific conferences, the urological World was deeply skeptical about his findings with one American specialist suggesting that proof would require something “beyond charts, tables and graphs” … so with that in mind, Professor Giles – who was aged 57 at the time – devised a way to give undeniable proof he was right.

To cut a very long story short [which you can read here] he presented his key note speech by announcing to the audience that prior to getting on stage, he had injected his penis with his treatment, then – without a word of warning – he dropped his trousers to proudly present his massive erection [not my words, the words of an attendee] to the shocked crowd.

To really ram home the point [not the best choice of words there], he then walked around the audience offering them the chance to prod and poke his genitals to see how firm it was.

Given these are a couple of the quotes from DR’s in attendance, I would say he was successful in his quest:

“I had been wondering why Brindley was wearing sweatpants,” says Dr. Arnold Melman, chief of urology at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, “… suddenly I knew. It was a big penis, and he just walked around the stage, showing it off.”

Dr. Irwin Goldstein – a Boston University urologist – said, “He walked down the aisle and let us touch it. People couldn’t believe it wasn’t an implant.”

Now I am not suggesting we suddenly go to such extreme lengths to prove our point … especially given we work in advertising which means we should never [hopefully] have to show our privates to explain a theory … however it would be nice if we went to some lengths to prove them.

We work in an industry where talk is very, very cheap so if we want to truly get the respect that our egos crave, then proving our theories should be regarded with greater importance than simply having theories … even if it takes years to finally be able to prove we were right.

As I’ve said many a time, anything is easy if you don’t have to do it or prove it.

Has China Finally Stopped Putting The ‘No’ In Innovation?
November 13, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Recently a reporter asked me what I thought about innovation in China.

I know … I know … you’re wondering what sort of dumb-ass reporter would do such a thing and my answer would be a dumb-ass reporter who realised their mistake very quickly and didn’t mention me once in their article. Ha.

But the thing is, I get very frustrated when people just claim China is a copycat market.

Don’t get me wrong, that still happens – and in the old days, it happened all the time – but that’s not so much the case anymore and it’s not always for the reasons people may think.

Without doubt, innovation – in the context of China – is an interesting concept.

Given the culture of ‘group acceptance’ [where your decisions and actions are heavily influenced by the views and opinions of your peers and society as a whole] some local companies have interpreted it much more as being a ‘fast follower’ rather than the way the West define it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong – nor does it mean everyone has adopted that mentality [in fact there are some companies and categories that are leading the World in terms of innovation, they just don’t get the press because they operate in more niche areas than consumer electronics] – but it is true to say that many medium/large organisations feel more comfortable cumulatively developing their ideas rather than embracing more fundamental step-change stuff.

That said, the speed many Chinese brands evolve their product offering often leaves many Western brands in the dust … especially when you look more closely and see that many of the hyped-Western innovators really are doing nothing more than ‘tweaking’ their product rather than fundamentally pushing it forward.

But all that aside, the thing I find fascinating about China is that it has innovated a huge amount of what we all now take for granted.

From wheelbarrows to the printing press … you name it, they did it.

That’s right, the culture that so many people like to piss on in terms of ‘copyright infringement’ created much of the stuff that we all use and embrace every single day.

Then of course, there’s what people here do with food which is amazing and innovative … OK, it’s also scary, but it’s definitely amazing and innovative … however the sad thing is that many people here don’t see that as innovation – or creativity – which is, to me, part of the issue.

You see a lot of things happened in China over the past 50 years that fundamentally affected people’s attitudes towards what is innovation and creativity, and while that won’t change overnight, I’m hearing those terms being used more and more by people and organisations and to me that’s exciting because while a lot of it is being almost exlusively driven by them seeing an opportunity to increase revenues [rather than necessarily having an inherent desire to push boundaries] it will force people to re-evaluate what they can achieve here.

Of course many – mainly in the West – only see China as copy-cats, but as I said earlier, we are seeing more and more companies here who are no longer just duplicating what someone else has done but are innovating valuable features at a rate that vastly exceeds the product/brand they originally were inspired by – for example WeChat vs Twitter – which begs the question who is influencing who?

There’s A Fine Line Between Short-Term Thinking & Short Term Needing …
November 12, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

So when I went home recently, I found out that the college at the bottom of my street – the college I attended that is attached to the comprehensive school I attended that is attached to the primary school I attended – is closing down.

Despite it having provided free excellent further education to tens of thousands of students for decades, it recently got sold – by Nottinghamshire county council – to a private education company.

Because they have other campuses around the city, they have decided that all the current students can go to one of their other campuses, freeing them up to and sell the land to housing developers for millions.

I cannot tell you how upset and angry this has made me.

First of all, the fact that Nottingham County Council think it’s OK to sell a place of education is bad enough.

I know they’re in huge debt, but that debt is due to years of greed and stupidity and the fact they think it’s OK to try and cover their mistakes at the expense of future generations education is a disgrace.

Then to sell it to an organisation who view education as a profit centre – something I passionately am opposed to – is hugely upsetting, because they have just screwed over Nottingham’s young on 2 levels.

However the fact Nottingham County Council then allowed this company to sell the campus so they could profit by allowing even more houses to be built on the land just blows my mind.

I know England is supposedly massively short of houses, but to sell a place of education to solve this is despicable.

But the bit that seems most fucked-up of all is that by building more houses, there will be a greater need for a place of education for all the kids of the new young families who move there … which will place even more pressure on infrastructure and environment and drive the cost of education even more beyond the reach of many.


I appreciate we live in financially challenging times – which, let’s not forget, to different degrees we are all responsible for – but if we classify education as an expense rather than an investment [both in terms of helping people achieve more with their life, not to mention increasing the chances of them identifying and creating new industries and opportunities that can help millions economically and socially] then local councils and Governments are even more short-sighted than I feared.

I know it’s much more complex than this.

I know I am responding to this with an emotional, sentimental bias.

I know that having other college campuses to attend means people aren’t without options.

But this ‘sell land to developers’ to try and balance our economic mistakes of the past has many implications and if we’re not careful, we’re ensuring the next generations have even less chance of creating a better world for themselves and others.

Unless they come from very rich families.

Another reason why communism might not be so bad after all.

I Will Never Forget Nor Stop Being Grateful For Your Sacrifice …
November 11, 2014, 11:11 am
Filed under: 11.11 @ 11.11

The significance of today must never be allowed to pass by.

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