Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Miserable staff

Sunday openings, pathetic holiday allowances, abuse from customers and demanding bosses are hardly gonna create a motivated and customer-focused workforce.

Today, UK papers report the findings of a recent survey: it is now official that UK shop workers are the sulkiest, most unhelpful and least courteous of all species.

Anybody with enough sensibility to get off their moral (or social) high horse or unlucky enough to take up a job in "customer care" (pushing till buttons, call centre person, shop assistant, bar person etc), would easily understand the motivations behind such a vulgar picture.

Amongst EU countries, the pressure shop workers are under in the UK is unique. Sunday and bank holiday (remember them?) openings, pathetic holiday allowances, abuse from customers and bosses hawking over any visit to the loo are hardly gonna create a motivated and customer-focused workforce.

An army of young shop assistants watch over as managers fatten their salaries on a monthly basis and the gap between meagre minimum wage and bosses' bonuses widen. Soaring profits are the imperative and the short term way to achieve them is a stripped down workforce slogging over increasingly long hours. It's hardly a surprise when business hours extend as quick as lunch breaks shrink, yet dysfunctional rotas and more time at work only mean bad decisions and reduction in quality.

Unionisation amongst shop workers is practically non-existent and the mantra that "the customer is always right" is none other than a one-fold weapon against underpaid and unmotivated shop staff. Not very often, in fact, you'll find high maintenance customers directing their moans against management and mid-management as an overworked teenage girl handling a till with a queue of 14 customers huffing and puffing is far too easy a target for customer complaints.

The next time you find yourself being so vociferous against a lone barman rushing off his feet as he pours pints against the clock or you patronise a shop assistant with an odious "cheer up mate" think twice. You may have been fortunate enough to avoid work on the wrong side of "customer services".

Monday, November 21, 2005

Eat like you speak (part 2)

Still wondering what the hell music reviewers are on about? See if this sheds any light:

[…]Vauxhall swapped the lumpen rockabilly glam of Your Arsenal for a dreamlike album of eerie Morphean textures suffused with a Chatterton-like half-spirit of jubilant exhaustion.
(Andrew Male on Mojo, June 2004)

But keep an open mind, cleanse your aural palette with a David Gray/James Blunt sorbet and you just might find your self going ga-ga for douchebag rock.
(Craig McLean, album review on The Word, November 2005)

Tracing the vector that commenced with 2002’s Intelligence And Sacrifice, Futurist further strips away the armour-plated junglism of Empire’s 90s output in favour of dense metallic punk embellished with Nic Endo’s digital percussion.
(Louis Pattison, new albums reviews, Uncut June 2005)

Like an artificially grown crystal, every Autechre track has a unique molecular arrangement determining its overall shape, density and degree of rigidity. Underpinning pulses of hip hop and breakbeats, even electronic clubs are pummelled in brutal stress-tests. The duo tax the syntax of musical language.
(Rob Young, new albums reviews, Uncut June 2005)

Hanging out more with people may be a solution...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Recruitment campaign for free

The more White House and Pentagon deny allegations, the more it’s a sign that the truth is coming to light.

In 2004 they frantically denied charges of torturing Iraqi prisoners only for TV channels to be inundated of unmistakeable evidence to the contrary. Last spring, Newsweek was threatened with libel actions for reporting about American soldiers soiling religious books and being blasphemous towards symbols of Islam. Two weeks later US Army top cadres hummed and hawed before conceding that it was true- some of their troops had been peeing over copies of the Quran. Cue last week's international hoo-ha over a dossier concerning the US Army's deployment of white phosphorous (a lethal chemical weapon) in Iraq.

Mess notwithstanding, the American papers had their lips collectively sealed while their British colleagues didn't fare much better: it took them days to announce the news and still nipped it in the bud pretty much straightaway. Presumably it didn't quite go along with the increasingly clumsy propaganda of a liberated Iraq.

After 48 hours of pathetic denial, in the end the Pentagon came clean and confirmed that they had indeed used white phosphorous in the battle of Falluja. Never had the trite notion of clamping down on Saddam’s chemical weapons seemed a less likely justification for war. Fair enough, many were in good faith as they backed the war. Yet what else is needed for them to register how naïve (at best) their stance has been along? What do you expect when an administration like Bush’s is left to deal with a task like that?

As Iraq shows no sign of stabilising and US soldiers piss on the Quran, torture prisoners and cluelessly preside over the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians, we can only sigh at the simultaneous thought of Al-Quaeda toasting over the most successful recruitment campaign of their history. And they didn't even have to spend a penny on it.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Turnstiles that make them hostile

Time for UEFA to ban Turkish teams?

The deeds of British hooliganism from the 1970s up until Euro2000 are well documented. It's a sad fact that Brits become socially inept when in the throes of alcohol, and in as much as it’s typical of ‘geezer-culture’ to cowardly play down the disgrace that hooliganism represents (and how much it lets down the perception of the country abroad), this time the complaint about double standards isn't far-fetched.

On Wednesday night Istanbul was the venue of World Cup play-off Turkey-Switzerland. Turkey lost and the appalling scenes at the end of the match have been shown all around the world with players, stewards and supporters alike embarking upon a depressing free-for-all of violence.

Now, the 1985 Heysel tragedy is etched in my brain as little short of a childhood trauma. I was only a kid infatuated with football and as I tuned in to watch Juventus vs Liverpool, the European Cup Final, it suddenly clicked that people can get murdered because of football. On that occasion, English teams were deservedly handed a five-years ban and it’s about time -and only fair- that Turkey now receive similar treatment. Yet the leniency that the Turkish FA has encountered over the years, blind eye after blind eye, would suggest that UEFA may be run by a bunch of cyclopes.

Every time Turkey is host to an international match, the levels of intimidation on and off the pitch reach obnoxious heights.

Three examples spring to mind. A number of Italian shops in Turkey were attacked or burnt down as Juventus travelled to play Galatasary in the 1998 Champions League. And who doesn’t remember the death of two Leeds supporters in Istanbul in April 2000, or the incidents following England playing in Turkey in 2004?

While Swiss players were hospitalised following last Wednesday’s clashes, this is what a Turkish player, Hamit Altintop, was reported as saying to the press: “You need to know we have a very different mentality. We are more emotional when we lose. We cannot lose". How very true, how very sad.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Eat like you speak (or write)

You may hold the belief that music reviews are intended to help you out in your quest for a decent CD. Think again. Take a look at this selection:

Dave Allen’s bass lines crammed into airless pockets, Andy Gill’s guitar spewing slate-grey fireworks. During ‘Ether’, [Jon King] drops to the floor and crawls around like a bug – a clown loose in the Politburo.
(Louis Pattison, gig review, Uncut Dec 2005)

Their fractured chamber-folk dotted with freakish Pentecostal choirals and bursts of hectic rock-skronk.
(Louis Pattison, album review, Uncut Dec 2005)

‘The Pink Ink’ charges along like a caffeine-chugging Half Man Half Biscuit, Chapple’s squawked, comi-cryptic lyrics shadowed by ragged back-room serenades.
(Louis Pattison, album reviews, Uncut Dec 2005)

This year’s full Howling Hex LP All Night Fox, found ex-Royal Trux man Neil Hagerty on stellar form, asphalting rolling highways of Beefheartian avant-boogie that concealed motorik and funk beneath a bristly Hicksville exterior.
(Louis Pattison, album reviews, Uncut Dec 2005)

The delightfully lackadaisical sisters follow it with a second French-language release of what should term their anti-career. Accompanied by Arcasian-sounding accordions, banjos and fiddles, their warm harmonies, beguiling melodies and front-parlour informality still sound magnificent.
(Nigel Williamson, album reviews, Uncut Mar 2005)

More of those abstruse gems each week!

The repeat of La Haine

The usual litany of blaming “the government” and lack of infrastructures is all too easy. The ongoing riots in France are the bleak reminder of what happens two or three generations down the line after mass-importing cheap labour. And it’s not at all just a French problem. The 2001 riots in Bradford and Oldham, as well as the recent mayhem in Birmingham stem from the same mistake made in the Fifties and Sixties that involved cheap-labour based solutions to the problems of ailing industry.

Importing masses of people who only came for the money leads to entire generations (often millions) of people who wouldn’t care less about assimilating let alone liking their host society. Couple it with physiological levels of ignorance and racism and it becomes a recipe for trouble. When the economic-boom fades, the jobs go and the children of the original immigrants cannot get (decent) work, the mess we’ve seen in the banlieu of Paris follows.

Many politicians would tell you that today's globalised economy makes such course of action inevitable, but it's false. Countries like Canada or Australia have long adopted a much more sensible attitude. Those who wish to come in must demonstrate they possess a skill that is specifically needed and that it so in specific fields. Also, financial and investing criteria are extremely strict.

The result is that those who are prepared to go through the hassle and scrutiny of the admission process are not only the most genuine aspirers but also the true lovers and admirers of their place of destination. The economic justifications for mass-immigration are at best meagre. Industries that need cheap labour to survive should just follow the natural course of the market and wither if they cannot adapt to the labour market that already exists. Solving problems with mass immigration may seem the thing to do in the short term but later on become a recipe for disaster.