Talking to My Daughter About the Economy (A Brief History of Capitalism) by Yanis Varoufakis: Book Review


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Yanis Varoufakis is the economist that shot to fame as the poster boy of Greek economic fuckwittery.  His job was to unfuck the institutionalised fuckwittery, caused by a seemingly ingrained national sport of ‘not paying tax’, that left the Greek economy as the basket-case of the Euro, in the wake of the economic crisis in 2008/2009.

Varoufakis became Greek Finance Minister in January 2015 and lasted till July of that year.  Not exactly jaw-dropping credentials for being the Oracle on succesful economic strategy.

But he was an academic, so he knew the answers, right?

Frankly, he seems to have been spending his time writing books about his experience rather than actually unfucking up Greece.  And maybe that’s why he only lasted 7 months doing the job.

This is one of the books.

Its construct is as a letter to his, now, 14 year old daughter, Xenia, who lives with her mother in Australia.  One assumes Yanis and Mrs Varoufakis had some sort of marital difference of opinion.

And I’m speculating that Yanis’ wife said to Xenia.  “Darling, let’s get out of this country that your dad is supposed to be unfucking up.  As far as I can see he’s too busy writing books about how the economy got fucked up in the first place to actually unfuck it.  But I’ve heard the Australians understand the economy and we can swap a diet of olives and Retsina for steak and Shiraz.”

Several months later Xenia woke her mum to say.

“Mum, fuck sake, Dad’s written me this fucking 200 page letter about the fucking economy that’s all fucking fucked, instead of fucking unfucking it.”

I mean, if you were 13 years old (then), and on another continent, and missing your Dad would you be high-fiving the entire population of Sydney High School shouting.  “Whoa guys, my Dad just wrote me a 200 page book about Capitalism, what did your Dad do?  Take you to the Melbourne Cup?  Go surfing all weekend?  Barbie like it’s 1999?  Fucking losers!”

So, the reader is treated like a 13 year old girl (who probably doesn’t give a flying fuck about anything other than getting to second base with Bruce) as Yanis explains the principles of Capitalism, and consequently how the economy works.  Why he believes he is qualified to do this, when his only practical experience is of not succeeding in reducing the world’s oldest and most enduring culture to a pile of rotting fishbones, I know not.

Perhaps it’s his academic credentials.

Anyway, he succeeds in explaining what inequality, money, labour, tax, trade debt, profit, and banking are before reaching out to his local pharmacist to ingest a cocktail of hallucinogenic drugs (roughly half way through).

Thereafter, he explores the Oedipal Complex, the Flight of Icarus, The Matrix, ( revisited no fewer than seven times – I mean, nobody on Planet Earth understand The Matrix, so why use it seven times to ‘simplify’ a concept as obtuse as capitalism and the economy),  V for Vendetta, The Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales, The Terminator, The Sorceror’s Apprentice, Faust and Doctor Faustus (seven times),  Frankenstein (six times), Harry Potter, Blade Runner, and Star Trek (five times) in an attempt to make the cerebral concept of Capitalism (and the economy) a bit more down with the kids.

The second half of the book would have made excellent arse-wiping material for Salvador Dali.

But the ‘best’ bit of all is his conclusion. (To his then 13 year old daughter, remember.)

In it he postures…

“OK, you will say, you reject the markets-everywhere solution and propose instead the democracy-everywhere alternative (really? is that what she’s grafiti-ing on the walls of Sydney High?). But how on Earth will your democracy save the planet, put the robots to work for us and make money function sensibly and smoothly?  What a great question! (If I say so myself.) While it would take a whole other book to answer it properly, let me offer a hint that may help you write that sequel yourself one day.”

“Aye. That. Will. Be. Right. Dad.  (Says Xenia.) Like I’m gonna write a fucking sequal to Talking to My Daughter About the Economy (A brief History of Capitalism) ‘cos you don’t know the fucking answers yourself (and made silly Brits fork out £12 to not give them any fucking answers – well, at least I got to read the crazy pish for free).”

In his epilogue, like we needed more reading after the previous 80 pages of intellectual wank, he writes this.

“How can Dad have confused me with someone who gives a damn?”.  That is a very, very, very good question and probably the best in the book.

But he ploughs on regardless, sharing with us this earth-shattering hypothesis to conclude.

HALPEVAM.

HALPEVAM is a ‘magnificent’ computer created by a mad scientist (any guess who that might be readers?)

HALPEVAM: Heuristic ALgorithmic, Pleasure & Experiential VAlue Maximiser. (Oh, come on, the acronym isn’t even a fucking acronym, it’s a fucking fag packet doodle.  Let me help you Yanis.  How about: Heuristic Algorithmic Leisue, Pleasure Experiential Value-Add Maximiser?  There: that spells fucking HALVEPAM!

Or how about Bloody Unbelievable Leisure-Life Sensitivity Heuristic Improving Transactional Organ Made Easy To Effect Relaxation?

He explains: “HALPEVAM is the opposite of the horrible, misanthropic machines in The Matrix – it’s the ultimate pleasure machine”.

(You still with us, 13 year old Xenia?  Or are you in a Psychologist’s practice in Sydney asking for information on psychosis ‘for a friend’?)

Poor Xenia.

But, Xenia’s not our problem, Yanis is raking it in and Mrs Varoufakis is presumably on a pretty big financial settlement (if only Greece reported its taxes).

Try it, it’s fun.

 

Three. Is the magic number. Calling all you Intelligent Finance [sic] customers out there.


Is Intelligent Finance the dumbest bank in the world?
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0845 xxx xxxx. Intelligent Finance’s Home Page and Security Page contact number.

This morning I thought “It’s champagne time – Intelligent Finance [sic] have, after 3 years of constantly asking them, updated their customer phone number”.
But no, only on 2 of their 3 customer facing pages.
The one when you are actually looking at your account is STILL WRONG.
They’re still Dullard Finance.
Incompetence beyond comprehension frankly.
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0345 xxx xxxx.  Intelligent Finance’s Accounts Page, where you can see your balance etc and might decide you need to call them to query something – by now you are through security and, of course, failed to write down the correct phone number while you were there on the assumption that the number would be correct throughout the site.  But, you know when happens when you assume.  Yes,  U make and ASS out of ME

 So, as I entitled this elegant thought-piece, Three. Is the magic number.  As I will leave De la Soul to prove.

Fire and Fury, Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff: Book review.


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Not a political reader?  Read this.

Think Donald Trump is a dangerous idiot?  Read this.

Feeling the February blues?  Read this.

Whilst the focus, in reviews of this epic book, has been firmly on Trump’s shenanigans the reality is that it features a large cast that could probably be described as Dumb and Dumber, and Dumber still, and even more Dumber and so Dumb it doesn’t compute, and those vying for the Dumbest of the Dumb.

Chief amongst them, and clearly living the aphorism that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king, is Stephen K Bannon.  A serial schmuck who, at best, scrambled through a career of wannabe jobs before stumbling upon Bob and Rebekah Mercer, father and daughter multi-billionaires who spent vast sums to build a “radical free-market,small-government,home=schooling, anti liberal, gold-standard, pro-death-penalty, anti-Muslim, pro-Christian, monetarist, anti-civil-rights political movement.”

The Mercers installed Bannon as CEO of the tiny ultra-right-wing TV network, Brietbart, that overtook Murdoch’s Fox network as the voice-piece of the far right (and the Tea Party) and gave Bannon his way into Trump Towers.

The hold (albeit precarious) that Bannon had over Trump is remarkable.  He became his svengali and, against all the odds, overcame the Clinton Juggernaut to instate Trump in a totally unexpected presidential role.  The chapter on the victory has you howling with laughter.

The book charts the relationships Trump (and Bannon) then forge in the nascent government.  (It was meant to cover the first 100 days but Wolff was having so much fun, and so much unchecked access, that it actually takes us, via a postscript, to October 2017.)

Wolff claims he had dozens of, unscrutinised, interviews with aides and central characters in the book.  He had ‘a seat in the White House’, and was never challenged.

It’s like a fervent 5 set, Grand Slam Final, tennis match of deceit and counter deceit, leaks, backstabbing, plotting, firings, hirings, regret about hirings and various other daily occurrences amongst a team of advisors and departmental heads that had no more experience of US politics than I have.

It starts off laugh out loud funny, and I mean gut wrenchingly so, before settling into a torrid succession of horrendous back stories and tales of who was next for the firing line.

Central to the story are Bannon, of course, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (idiot), and the hilarious construct that is Jarvanka (Jared Kushner, son of a criminal, and his wife Ivanka Trump; Daddy’s Girl).

Jarvanka come in for relentless ridicule; mainly from the mouth of Bannon but there can be no doubt Wolff sees them as a laughable pair of complete morons.

Of course, Sean Spicer gets it in the neck (although we see him as a sympathetic character here, completely overwhelmed by Trump’s madness.)

What the serial womaniser sees in the gorgeous, and startlingly unqualified, Hope Hicks – his closest advisor, is anyone’s guess, but her position is as solid as anyone’s could ever be in this tram smash of a court.

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No idea what Trump sees in the beautiful Hope Hicks.

Startlingly missing are both Melania and Vice President, Pence (who is castigated as even more of an idiot than Trump).

It’s a completely and utterly biased malicious character assassination of a man you wouldn’t put in charge of running a bath.  It exposes, time and again, Trump’s complete incompetence and reliance (100%) on gut feel.

That this man is an idiot of monumental  proportions is no great revelation – we all know that.  It’s the day to day incompetence that makes for the meat and potatoes of a political read like no other.

It’s a must read.

Go on, read it, before Kim Jong-un blows us all up.

 

Fire and Fury. Inside the Trump White House.


I’m reading this mind spinning book and one third of way through I think I have the measure of The Donald.

Basically it’s pretty easy to get a gig as a special advisor to the POTUS.  You don’t actually need any talent.

Anyway. I have spotted the main flaw in his presidency and so I’d like to share a bit of consultancy advice that I’ve used in first year advertising lectures in the past.

It’s a familiar statement that many of you will know but if heeded could transform his premiership.

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Can I have a job now please Mr President?

The Disaster Artist: Movie Review


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The Disaster Artist is essentially a biopic of an episode in the life of the mysterious Tommy Wiseau, a failed actor who somehow managed to spend over $6m on making what some regard as the worst film in Hollywood history; The Room. (It scores 3.6 on IMDB for information.)

I would urge you to at least watch some of the ‘Best of The Room’ videos that you can find on Youtube before seeing tThe Disaster Artist.  Better still, go to a screening of the movie which has reached such levels of cult status and interactivity that it’s become a bit like a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening or a Singalonga Sound of Music.

I mean it’s awful.  The Room, that is.

Here we find out how it came about and that means trying to get under the skin of Tommy Wiseau himself, clearly a task that James Franko has tackled with some relish, as he plays the lead role (and, like Wiseua directs the movie). His younger brother Dave Franko plays Wiseau’s best friend Greg who plays Mark in the movie.

It’s outright weird in places as we try to get to grips with Wiseau’s accent – at times he is virtually unintelligible (including in The Room final cut – one of its great charms).  He claims to be from St Louis but he looks Chinese or certainly East Asian and sounds Hungarian or certainly Eastern European.  It’s a bizarre mash up that Franko nails from the off.

Then there’s the money, where does it come from?  No clues are given. And his sexuality?  His relationship with Greg is nothing if not close, but there is no sexual advances made on his ‘baby faced” charge who he takes in to his home in LA.

Seth Rogan has a supporting role as an exasperated Script Supervisor/stand in director when Tommy is on screen – one famous scene required 67 takes and is captured hilariously here.

But it’s all a little sad.  Clearly we are laughing AT Wiseau not WITH him and it all felt a little charmless in that respect.  There’s no doubt Franko pulls it off and his brother also has a good turn, but for me I’d have liked just a spark of sympathy for the big fella.

The movie has gone on to wash its face and Wiseau has milked it enthusiastically over the years – maybe a little more than a caption to that effect would have given Tommy the last laugh.

 

How to be a tool: Lesson 1.


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I’m sure some of you will disagree but the pettiness of this diatribe is frankly laugh out loudable.

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman Jamie Greene said:

“Motorists and commuters must be dismayed. “This SNP government opened the bridge with a £1.5m celebration party and used it as a symbol of their stewardship of the country.


All the while they knew that there were problems with the road surface, that these problems would have to be fixed and the bridge would have to be closed shortly after opening it. 


At no point were road users, whose daily lives are now thrown into disarray, informed that there were impending closures.

To make matters worse, we now know that there are potentially more closures to come. 


Commuters just wanted a bridge that would get them to work on time. 
“There are some serious questions to be answered as to how shoddy workmanship passed quality control checks prior to opening in the first place, whether or not these errors were as a result of pressure to speed up the works and whether there was any political pressure on the contractors to open despite ministers being made aware of potential faults and snags. 


It is abundantly clear the SNP was far more preoccupied with spending taxpayers money on party planning than actually delivering a vital infrastructure development fit for purpose from day one. 


This bridge fiasco is absolutely symbolic of a feckless SNP government which thrives on self-congratulatory indulgence at the expense of the tax-paying public.” Scottish Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said:

Transport Scotland has known about these faults for months and they have chosen to keep that information from the public.

Road users found out about carriageway closures at the last minute and officials have confirmed there are more closures to come.

The SNP transport minister must give a full explanation and account for his handling of the project.

Either the SNP knew about this fault and choose to keep it quiet or they didn’t, which demonstrates yet again their gross mismanagement of major infrastructure projects.”

European City of Culture. Another example of the foolish implications of Brexit.


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I know a number of people who poured their hearts and souls into Dundee’s bid to become the UK’s contender for European City of Culture 2023.  I don’t know anyone in Leeds, Nottingham, Milton Keynes or Belfast/Derry who did the same, but I bet they too broke their backs and, in some cases, their bank accounts.

But guess what, The EU has decided that the UK has essentially null and voided its application because it has elected to leave Europe’s governing body.

What would I do if I was the European arbiter of this situation?  Exactly the same.  Although I would have had the grace to declare the UK null and void before the process began.  (Now, I appreciate that wasn’t possible as the bids were opened in 2014. But upon declaration of the UK’s intention to leave the EU the implications should have been stated, not the week the entries went in.)

And all those research scientists.  Do they really think they’ll now get those grant applications in the light of this decision?

Sunderland got lucky when Nissan stamped its feet about the Brexit decision and the UK Govt stumped up a ton of dosh to pacify them.  Shame the silly fuckers voted to leave without thinking about the possible consequences for one of their biggest employers.

The UK is a global laughing stock and yet Theresa May marches on regardless. (I have to say JC is not covering himself in glory on this one either.)

In previous protestations I have blamed the Tories for this fiasco and I still do because they are carrying the torch for this and refusing the reconsider, or even listen.  To their own back benches if not the country.

Please dear readers, can we start a revolution?

Why are there no public demonstrations about the utter fuckwittery of this arrogant posturing?