Monday, March 23, 2009

Cold Burger

OK, so the press don't seem to tire of giving us more stories about the economy, or lack of one.

According to this article, things are so bad that some people in China are trying to live on a little as 100RMB a week, which we are told is equivalent to £10 a week. This is probably slightly misleading, because the RMB to GBP exchange rate tells us nothing about the cost of living in China where on the one hand you could spend 2RMB (20p) on a large bowl of wonton noodles in a local suburban noodle shop, or 35RMB (£3.50) on a cup of Latte from Starbucks.

It's rather telling of spending habits in China that, according to the article, people have downgrade their quality of life from buying Louis Vuitton bags, to switching off the heating and going straight to bed with an electric blanket.

So nothing too extreme then.....

And obviously "luxury food items" such as McDonalds and KFC Chicken are now also off the gourmet menus. I'm surprised people have not decided to look in bins for half-eaten buns or half-finished cups of coffee. If it was from Starbucks it could be exchanged for 4 bowls of Wonton....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

You sunk my battleship!

Sometimes the ways of the world get too much for me and I'd rather I just went back to being a child where my only problems were hours of homework, forced lessons to learn the hated violin and racial abuse from ignorant English classmates.

Hang on, maybe adulthood is better.

That said, my mind is playing ping-pong in the latest Eastenders-Ricky-and-Bianca-style-relationship between People's Republic "Red Dragon" China (boo, hiss) and the United States "Clawed Eagle" America (erm, boo, hiss).

In yesterday's paper we read that the US are to send warships to the South China Sea because the Chinese Navy have been harrasssing and behaving menacing towards unarmed American ships. Well naughty China, you're once again showing your true colours as a menace to world peace aren't you? But hold on, China are saying that the unarmed US ship was a spy ship performing surveillance on Chinese military activity and bases. That's not very nice is it Uncle Sam? And even worse they were only 75 miles from the Chinese coast and in Chinese waters.

Well once again Uncle Sam is throwing his weight around the world thinking it can do whatever it wants, right? But no the Americans say, they were in international waters, and they don't recognise Chinese claims on waters that are also being claimed by other countries in the immediate vicinity such as Vietnam and the Phillipines.

So, after all, it's Red China just trying to claw more territory to add to its growing empire of yellow peril, right? And by trying to bully an unarmed US vessel in disputed waters is just a little test of the new president's toughness, given the reputation of Democrats of being weak on the international stage. Well that's one opinion being expressed in the comments section of the article I read. Mind you other comments there talked about full-scale war between the two countries.

But hang on, would China send a surveillance craft into the disputed waters 75 miles off the coast of, say, Cape Canaveral without expecting some kind of a response?

You say tomato, I say tomato, with every little new piece of information I receive the whole situation gets turned upside-down again. Maybe I should go back to school and start all over again....

Monday, March 9, 2009

Rock 'n Roll, baby!

Over here in "The West" there is a great tradition of famous figures in the music business living the Rock and Roll lifestyle; the drugs, the sex, the general over-indulgence, and just all-round wacky behaviour. Ever since the 1950s there has been a blossoming of creativity in the musical realm that stems from living life on the edge and pushing the boundaries of culture. Elvis swayed his hips in '56, The Beatles grew their hair long and sang about drugs in the '60s. David Bowie decided to dress like, erm David Bowie in the '70s and sang about Spacemen. And the Rolling Stones continue to live their Rock 'n Roll lifestyle up to the present day whilst continuing to play sell-out concerts.

And now Michael Jackson is making a comeback. With his fake hair, fake nose and (probably) fake skin, is there anyone who is more wacko in the world? And has anyone sold more records than Thriller?

Now let's look to "The East". In the music industry over there, which artists do we have who truly innovate, who truly live their lives in the spirit of Rock 'n Roll and who record music that makes them feel good, as opposed to music that's already been tried and tested by Phil Collins and will sell the most copies to Mr and Mrs 2.4 children?

It's a pretty common opinion that with its huge population and resources the future is in The East, and we're now looking at China with hopeful eyes to be able to save the world's economy.

But forget that for a game of soldiers, when are we going to see a Chinese artist who is truly Rock 'n Roll to shine a light and kiss the sky of popular music? I fear we Chinese people are nothing more than cannon fodder for law school, medical college and IT courses.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Desperate times (History of 2008 part 2)

And so Bank of England interest rates have been reduced yet again, this time to 0.5%. And critics say such a dramatic measure leaves no room for future action. I'm no economics professor but this says to me that the Bank of England thinks we are facing desparate economic times that require desperate measures. To say that this leaves little room for manoevre is like saying that pumping water from the Thames to fight fires during the 1940 London Blitz leaves no more water for future fire-fighting.

And as if that was not enough, it seems that the BOE is now also creating money to the tune of £75 billion (although we are informed, this does not actually mean they will be physically printing the stuff out).

One problem with the cut in interest rates is that it was intended to allow banks to lend more money to the man in the street; so that small businesses can continue to run and keep people employed and first-time buyers can buy houses. However this is not happening because the banks are probably in more trouble than anybody realises.

So let's go back to bare-bone basics: the government needs to get people to spend money and to get people working again. Off the top of my head how about this?

Rather than pumping money into banks, the government spends this cash on employing more people. What could they do? Well, what needs doing? We need to clean up the country, improve policing, improve social care, improve teaching standards. Hey, how about manning the presses and printing out more money?

Also the government could just give money to people, (and I don't mean failed bankers who want to retire at 50). How about vouchers that can only be redeemed by spending it on the high street?

If we truly are in desperate times, as 0.5% interest rates suggest, then maybe we need radical innovative solutions?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

People you'd rather not meet

I could have sworn last week was some important Iron Maiden anniversary, or that she had passed away, but irrespective of the reasons, there seemed to have been a sudden mini-epidemic of Thatcher-related drama programmes on the television last week.

I have to say I immensely enjoyed watching Margaret, the BBC2 drama based on the final days of Margaret Thatcher's premiership. Of course it was a dramatisation liberally sprinkled with artistic license and artfully placed flashbacks (used to such great effect in Godfather Part 2). As well as enjoying it on the level of a Greek Tragedy (not that I've ever, erm, seen a Greek Tragedy) it was good to see characters from another era at their scheming and machiavellian worst. Of course no-one knows how much of the cloak-and-dagger was real and how much of it was magnified and embellished for our "viewing pleasure".

However on the comfy sofa of my relatively stress-free life it was amusing in a strange way to see people choosing to enter a career and lifestyle that involves working with people who are possibly holding a supporting hand or dagger against your back. There are a few unpleasant people in the world I've had the misfortune to meet, but luckily I've been able to steer a fairly clear path in my life that has limited my meeting them to the bare minimum.

Our current Prime Minister seems to be one of these people, if I read between the lines in the newspapers correctly. He doesn't seem to have any particular reputation for being a nice guy (not that I'm saying any previous Prime Ministers are particularly decent, genuine or amiable people) but I do remember reading somewhere that he was particularly horrible to people from the "Blair Camp" when he still Chancellor and impatiently waiting for the Prime Minister's job he deemed the world owed him.

Now it seems that President Obama doesn't like him that much either. The dual press-conference that would have shown Gordon and Barrack side-by-side facing the world's media (sorry, the world's press) has been cancelled due to snow in the Rose Garden.

Strangely no-one thought of rescheduling in some alternative venue. I don't know, I'm not an old political hand or anything, but how about somewhere ... indoors??? Or is it some trans-atlantic political joke about our own great British ability to not let a bit of snow stop everything from grinding to a halt?

In the shadowy world of politics image and protocol seems to be very important, though of course you'd never hear a politician openly admit this. But such a major snub sheds some light on what our Barack really thinks of Gordon. However on the other hand he is the first EU leader to meet the new president, so maybe it's a case of mixed signals that can be interpreted either way as deemed convenient in future.

That's not behaviour I'd expect from a politician!!!!!!!