Sunday, 27 March 2011


Now, as some of you may know, my term of confinement with United Amalgamated Consolidated is almost up. 18 years and 8 months for the same sprawling transglobal corporation. Well, more or less the same corporation - 10 years ago the rapacious United Amalgamated formed a 'partnership' with my lot in Amalgamated Consolidated, much in the way ivy partners trees, or the candiru fish the human urethra. Either way, I've basically worked in the same place for nigh on 19 years. But no longer!

My various attempts to make it over the wire have finally borne fruit, and like the last Prisoner episode (original series goddammit!), I can sense that freedom, long denied, is tantalisingly within my grasp. Although I fervently hope that in my case the boss' human mask doesn't get ripped off to reveal the face of a grinning chimp.

I have the 60 feet of rope, the travel documents, the Bavarian hat and the tin of corned beef. Nothing can stop me now, short of rolling a 1 on the Do Or Die card.
But back to my imminent departure from my host organism. I have something less than 3 months until LastDay, and being as it is a modern organisation which not only Invests In People (though evidently not me), but also promotes Dignity At Work (though that has not extended to giving me my own furshlugginer desk), they are obliged to extend we members of the escape committee a good deal of help in preparing for our future existence beyond the gates of United Amalgamated Consolidated. This includes helping us with job-seeking - CV writing, interview skills, that sort of thing. And here's my problem.

By Christ, I hate all that crap.

All that self-promoting nonsense, spinning your work history and selling yourself. Gaaaah. I mean, if I was the sort of person who enjoyed doing that sort of thing, do you think I'd've worked in the same place for so long? I just loathe CVs and interviews and whole horrible falseness of it all. I imagine the same goes for the majority of us lifers here. If we were to write honest CVs, they'd probably start with an opening paragraph a little like this:

An introverted tech-nerd with limited social skills and an overpowering fear of change. Someone who prefers discussing Fin Fang Foom's pants to 'risk management in the finance industry'. This candidate is happiest burrowing deep into your organisation, mastering a few obscure technical tricks that make them seemingly invaluable to the ongoing support of your ageing legacy systems and keeping their head down for a couple of decades. They have no aspirations to management or promotion, though would certainly feel entitled to an annual payrise Above The Fricking Rate Of Inflation (sorry, personal sore point creeping in there), and have little inclination to 'stretch' themself or operate 'out of their comfort zone'.

Yeah, that's a winning statement right there. At least it's bloody honest.

So it's the weekend and what have I been up to? Dealing with the mountain of emails from recruitment agencies that have accumulated this week. Jeebus, these agencies breed like rats. I seriously doubt if there are more than half a dozen people actually involved in the whole thing - probably just a bunch of web-savvy twentysomethings frenetically linking up to each other's sites to give the illusion of choice. I certainly seem to have seen the same job vacancies across the interweb (I'm wholly unsuited to all of them, before you ask).

For the last couple of hours I've done nothing but log on to websites, confirm my personal details, change my variously forgettable passwords, upload my epically dull CV (oh, it's a real page-turner) and work my way through an ever-increasing pile of Welcome emails from the agencies. What fun, what enormous bloody fun. And what comes next is just as bad - the sporadic phone calls from recruiters. Usually when I'm halfway through a sandwich, always when my stupid voice is at its deepest and croakiest, and invariably for a job that's perfect apart from:

  • they need me start right now, not in six months
  • it's on the wrong side of London (damn you Croydon and your emerging stature in the financial industry)
  • they need someone skilled in computer languages written after 1983, not before (amazing, I know...)

But if there's one aspect of this whole damned business that I really, really want nothing to do with, it's the networking side of things. Specifically LinkedIn.

For those of you below or above a certain age bracket, or blessedly free of white-collar employment concerns, you will be unaware of LinkedIn. In a nutshell it's Facebook for 'professionals'. A cruel person might say it's for people with pretensions to careerdom. Not me though. Honest.

What you do is you set yourself up on LinkedIn with your professional profile, or more likely (as in my case) you respond to an invite from a chum/acquaintance to join. I only did it as a favour to one such chum. I thought he'd get points if I linked to him - you know, like in Farmville. Either way, you set yourself up, write a little autobiography about what you do in your job, and then get friends, clients and employers to link to you and hopefully supply a glowing reference. Presumably you then get headhunted for the Best Job Ever. I guess.

All very reasonable, all very useful. A great way to get personal recommendations and put people in touch. But man, it's so not me. All that insincere self-promoting stuff, 'selling yourself as a brand' - it just makes me gag. I want a job goddammit, not a perishing career. And I don't want to get it by linking up with self-styled Network Support Managers, Information Education Advisors, Strategic Business Designers or Heads of User Excellence. Honestly, I look at the job titles of the people on there and it's like the crew manifest of the second Golgafrincham ark, and I do not want to sign on, no way no how.

When people come up to me at work to offer advice on job hunting, they invariably bring up LinkedIn, usually with an expression like they're imparting secret Masonic contact details. I'm surprised they haven't given me the special LinkedIn handshake yet. Maybe they have and I just missed it. Probably because I was rolling my eyes to the heavens at the time.

By the way, apologies to any Network Support Managers, Information Education Advisors, Strategic Business Designers or Heads of User Excellence reading this. Doubtless you find it a valuable tool in your professional... uh, toolbox, but it's not for me. Maybe you regard this whole self-promoting circus as 'playing the game', but I don't wanna play. Never did. I don't want to market myself, brand myself, demonstrate core competencies, see myself anywhere in particular in 5 years' time or set a personal fricking development plan. Nor, for what it's worth, will I be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. But hey, that's just me.

Won't someone just give me a job without forcing me to whore myself out as a 'forward-thinking solutions enabler who embraces the stretch of multi-disciplinary challenges at all levels'. Whatever the hell that means. And please don't make me write about myself in the third person, like someone else wrote my CV for me - it makes me feel like someone with a disassociative identity disorder. Or Doctor Doom.

Doctor Doom, hmm...

Ahem, anyway.

There has to be another way of getting a job, hasn't there? One that won't compromise my Snarky Nonconformist character class restrictions? Don't make me a hypocrite and force me on board the second ark - I couldn't bear to look myself in the mirror. Well, I can't anyway, but that's down to a cruel combination of strong overhead lighting and very fine hair. Damn you, Bulbs Of Baldness!

Just gimme a job. Ideally one that plays to my strengths as a highly expressive misanthrope who hates modern life. Surely those miserable bastards on the Grumpy programmes have writers?

My LinkedIn profile used to describe me as a mainframe drone. True fact. But someone said they couldn't recommend me whilst I had that as my job description, so I changed it to jaded code monkey.

I like the image of being a jade monkey - it sounds like something Indy would go in search of. Or Jake Cutter. And I suggest the fact that I can even remember who Jake Cutter is tells potential employers everything they need to know about me.

Monday, 14 March 2011

What I don't get, right...

Hello to you. The following thoughts are best described as thinking out loud about minor mysteries of popular entertainment, preceded by the introductory phrase "What I don't get, right...". Best uttered in a blokey London accent, possibly whilst leaning in toward your audience and gesticulating.

Why does reformed boy band Blue need backing singers? I just saw them performing their Eurovision entry on the Graham Norton show, and they had two blokes behind them singing along. What do they need backing singers for? They're a group composed solely of singers! It's not like they're too busy playing instruments to concentrate on the warbling, for Pete's sake. Was it perhaps an especially tricky song that really needed six voices? Had someone foolishly invited Blue to represent their country at the annual parade of thinly-velied regional politics only to discover - too late! - that the boys are a mere foursome, and not the finely tuned sextet that the anthemic "I Can" absolutely requires? Heads will roll, I can tell you.

Now, I like the actor Tim Roth, I do. But how come in the film The Incredible Hulk, he’s playing the character of Blonsky as British? Blonsky’s a soldier in the U.S. army. It doesn’t make sense. Did he do a swap from the Royal Marines perhaps? And it's not like Tim Roth can't do a good American accent - just look at Mr Orange in Reservoir Dogs. Maybe he's used up his lifetime supply of accents and now can only do his own, hence the Britishness in Hulk and Lie To Me (ooo, he's an idiosyncratic expert surrounded by a diverse team of flunkies! Where do they get their ideas? Well done, the TV studio). Maybe the same will happen to Hugh Laurie soon and House will become inexplicably English mid-season. By the same token, I assume Sean Connery's supply ran out in 1962.

Why do all Just For Men hair colourant adverts feature men just barely the wrong side of 40, with a full head of hair which has been unconvincingly tinted grey at the temples, much in the manner of Mr Fantastic? And why are they always dubbed as obviously as the old Operation ad?

Mario. What's that about? I honestly cannot understand how the little jumping man from Donkey Kong in 1981 has become the most well known character in video games. He's been in over 200 different games! What is the attraction? All those jumpy, platformy, coin collecty Mario games without nary a gun or ravening zombie in sight. I don't get it. I guess I'm just too old for squat Italian plumbers - the story of my life. Ironically, I recently found that I'm too young for Dead Space 2 though. I had nightmares after just watching someone else play it. Jeez.

What's with the weird mad-haired character on the adverts? Remember back when it was nothing but a manic round head with blue stripey arms pulling its few remaining hairs out? Then the ads got all animated and musical and - gasp! - it's a guh-girl! And she sings! None of which I have a problem with per se. What I do take issue with are:

a) the painfully diversity-aware adverts depicting everyone else with realistic hair apart from her - implying that she's either suffering from female alopecia or is undergoing intensive chemo,

and b) when, in the recent Chain Reaction advert, the mad-haired character (Let's call her Connie. I bet she does have a name at's PR nerve centre. How ghastly.) is flung up into the air, her boobs lightly jiggle. Have a look.

She has nine hairs on her head and no nose, but the decision was taken during the advert's development to ensure that her evidently perky breasts, concealed beneath her iconic blue stripey sweater, would realistically obey Hooke's law of elasticity! Wrong, so very wrong.

I find the implications disturbing, and reminiscent of a similar phenomenon from the 90s. Remember the original Ribena people? Those anthropomorphic blackcurrants that they used on TV adverts a while ago. No? Here's a reminder:

Note the carefully placed leaves (blackcurrant I assume. Or maybe not. Because that would mean they're from the same plant as the little Ribena person herself, which is either akin to wearing clothes made of your relatives, or else they're implying that she's actually growing leaves on her person in strategic places, much like body hair. Either way, urgh.)

What were they saying about the little Ribena lady's anatomy that needs covering up? Were they suggesting that beneath that Michelangelo-like foliage, she has functional primary and secondary sexual characteristics? Did we need to fear a strong wind might unexpectedly reveal her juicy womanliness as Nature intended it? I shudder at the mental image. Yes, I do have a mental image of it. Don't force me to draw it, because I will if you dare me.