Coffee & Underpants

Its Christmas day, 7pm. I’m cuddling my 5-year-old daughter on the couch and watching the movie Elf. The dwarf scene with Will Ferrell and Peter Dinklage has just come on.

Daughter: ‘Daddy is he real, really real? Not movie real.’

Me: ‘Who him?’ I ask, pointing at Peter Dinklage.

Daughter: ‘Yes, him. The little man. Is he really real?’

Me: ‘Yes Juliet, he’s really real, not movie real.’ I am smiling, stroking her hair and using my grown up, worldly wise, voice.

Daughter: ‘That’s sooo cool daddy.’

The scene progresses. She’s watching but deep in thought. After a while she looks up at me with a serious expression on her face.

‘Daddy?’

‘Yes?’

‘Can I have one of those little men for next Christmas?’

Thankfully the movie moved on at that point and I didn’t have to bore her with a chat about societal prejudices, discrimination and why most dwarfs, or elves or hobbits for that matter, probably wouldn’t find her early next year’s Santa list appropriate.

Clearly my daughter isn’t heightist. She’s just five and using the leeway we afford little people as they stare or point at the disabled, answer honestly when asked about someone’s appearance and say loudly for all to hear in your favourite restaurant that ‘the fat lady is returning to the table with the drinks’.

She is following a thought process that if dwarfs are really real, not movie real and about the same height as her then they must be good fun to play with. The logic is flawed but I understand why she thinks that she wants a dwarf for Christmas. Her logic is as good as saying that because Roger Federer is the best tennis player to have ever played the sport then he must be an expert on coffee machines, or mobile phones, or underpants, or Audi cars.

This is the logic of a five-year-old.

My daughter assumes that height, or a lack of, is directly linked to a fun play mate. Us grown-ups assume that good tennis playing is linked to extensive knowledge on pretty much everything.

She will quickly grow to understand the flaws in her logic. She will learn soon enough that dwarfs can be narky wee fuckers, should be avoided at all costs and can’t be purchased. But we will continue to buy our Roger endorsed coffee machines.

In marketing its called the halo effect and no one has a halo as big or as shiny as Roger. Good looking, male, graceful on court, happily married to his childhood sweetheart, beautiful children, family man. No scandal or closet worth speaking of.

He’s a marketers dream.

Tiger woods was a marketers dream once as well and we all know how that ended up.

I doubt Roger will fall from grace in such a dramatic fashion though, but I can still hope. I say hope because I have a long standing bet with a close friend that it will happen.

Personally I can’t believe anyone can be as perfect as Roger, he’s only a human being like the rest of us. He’s not a saint. At least not yet he’s not.

I believe that some enterprising reporter will eventually find and open his Swiss closet currently held securely deep in a Geneva vault.

And when his deviant proclivities are revealed for all to see I will be the proud owner of a £500 bottle of malt whiskey.

But Swiss goat fiddling aside what is it that makes us gravitate towards products which are being used by the great and the good looking?

We all know the answer to this, it’s the lifestyle we are buying into. If George Clooney drinks Nespresso, and I drink Nespresso then I can capture just a little bit of George’s life. I might not have the villa on Lago de Como or the super-lawyer wife or the boat or the plane or everything else he might have but my morning expresso will taste the same as his.

I sometimes wonder if the celebrities actually use the products they are endorsing or do they stand there smile and take a sip or a shave, collect their paycheck and go home dropping the product in the bin on the way.

So even if I can’t actually be George Clooney or Roger Federer, will having just a soupçon of their lives make me happier? If I feel even just 1% like George?

No, of course it bloody well wont. I know this, you know this, so whats is the point of companies spending millions to pay superstars to drink, wear or use their products?

Because it works that’s why.

People still buy the coffee because George drinks it and they still wear Roger’s underpants. Not his actual underpants you understand, I would imagine those would command a substantial premium, but ones with his name printed on them.

So there, I’ve managed to contradicted myself and in doing so shown that I really don’t have any plan worth speaking of when I set out to write one of these.

On one hand I have said we all know what’s going on, we know the ploy and understand the trick, but on the other hand we all still fall for it. Every time.

In the comic strip Peanuts there is a long running gag where Lucy persuades Charlie Brown to kick a ball she is holding. He normally refuses at first, having fallen for it before, but eventually she says something to persuade him. When he goes to kick the ball she moves it and he flies into the air and falls. It always ends with Lucy laughing and pointing out that he should not have trusted her.

Well it appears we are all, myself included, Charlie Brown.

I drink Nespresso almost every single day and it makes me feel nothing like George Clooney but I still buy into the whole lifestyle trick they are playing on me. The coffee’s not bad, its not great, but certainly not the best I have tasted. Yet I still buy it.

I am writing this on a Mac, why? Well you probably guessed why.

I could go on listing everything I own from my socks up but this would be dull and unnecessarily weird.

Basically for the most part we don’t buy stuff for the utility it offers us. I would argue that utility comes very far down the list of reasons why we purchase something and if you step back and actually think about this, it’s a bit silly really.

Anyway, as it’s that time of year, my new year’s resolution will be to avoid the marketing tricks, sidestep the fake lifestyle toothpaste and ignore the six pack ab-building beer. My coffee will be the tastiest but not the prettiest and my clothes will most certainly be endorsement free.

I will maintain this bland Tesco unbranded stonewash life right up until the day I see Clooney’s Own™ brand of pet Elves.

Because at the end of the day, Juliet is worth it.

Bonne Annee!   Gutes Neues Jahr!   Happy New Year!

Pheromones

astrologyThere are lots of things I don’t know or understand.

Conventional wisdom says that the older you are, the wiser you are. And I have come to the conclusion this is  false.

It’s a white lie to temper the pain of getting older and realising you are no longer able to go out on the ran-dan for two nights consecutively.

What seems to be happening is the older I get the more stuff I look into and the more I look into the more I don’t understand. If I was less inquisitive I might be able to master the topics I have already struggled with but just when I seem to get to grips with something like, say, quantum physics. Another comes along, like Pheromones.

Now before you jump up and say you understand Pheromones, please read the following:

It is believed that mammals detect pheromones through an organ in the nose called the VNO (Vomeronasal Organ), and connects to the hypothalamus in the brain. The VNO in humans consists of just pits that probably do not do anything. If humans do respond to hormones, most likely they use their normal olfactory system.

Do you really understand Pheromones?

If you do please explain to me what a hypothalamus is or what the olfactory system is? Or for that matter what are the pits they refer to; arm, lava, money? And finally please note the use of the word ‘if’ in the paragraph above. If is a seldom used word in science. If you see ‘if’ written in a scientific paper, it generally means they don’t know either.

I don’t understand Pheromones and I would challenge anyone to say they do. Unless you are a Pheromone scientist that is, if such a thing exists, then I might believe you.

I might ask you why though.

Christmas and the madness which goes on at this time of year is another older and un-wiser subject of mine. I think I have blogged till I am blue in the face on this subject so I wont.

Christmas is safe this time round.

Naturally though at this time of the year thoughts also turn to what we might or might not have achieved in the previous year and what we are resolving to definitely, definitely, do or stop doing during the next year. Definitely.

Let me just get past Christmas and then I will definitely eat less, definitely stop smoking, read more, study to become a doctor, stop having illicit thoughts about Amanda from purchasing or whatever dirty shameful thing it is you want to change.

All good stuff if it ever happens.

I myself prefer to depend on more tried and tested methods of determining what I am going to be doing tomorrow, the day after and so on.

I read my horoscope.

Now (I’m holding my hand up) before you say anything just hear me out.

Were the Greeks stupid?

I’m not talking about the current tax avoiding, ask Germany to bail them out and then complain when they do, dinner plate and economy breaking, version.

Not them, no.

I’m talking about the Greeks from ancient times. The ones who gave usHippocrates, Leonidas, Archimedes, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and, I might add, Astronomy.

They also gave us Astrology.

Astrology was a collateral byproduct from figuring out how the planets moved in relation to each other and what happens when you sit in the bath so yes, the ancient Greeks also gave us our daily horoscopes.

So if you believe that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the object submerged why not that you might meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger tomorrow?

My horoscope from Astrology.com for today tells me this:

What a relief! Your energy is returning, especially regarding affairs of the heart. Today you’ll be freed from the bonds of doubt about your judgment. With you, self-doubt is an especially touchy subject. You’re miserable when your confidence is gone. The energy flow has been re-established, although it may take you a few days to fully recover from the ordeal of recent weeks

And from CafeAstrology.com it tells me:

Prepare for the possibility of adjusting your plans today, dear Cancer, as wires can get crossed and plans can turn around, although it’s likely only a temporary situation. Energy levels are not at their best right now. In fact, it can be difficult knowing what your next step will be, so aim to go with the flow, or take extra time to yourself if the flow is not very comfortable. Haste makes waste today, particularly with family and home matters, as well as in love.

I interpret this as my energy is returning. Or its not. I need to go with the flow because next steps are not clear. I also need to be careful rushing into something.

And here in lies the problem with horoscopes.

I don’t really check my horoscope just in case you were wondering. Aside from, that is, the weeks of intense and heavy research I have conducted for this blog.

No. I do what everyone else does and resolve to do something on the 31st

I also, like everyone else, break it two days later as the painful, sober, withdrawal infested cold light of the new year cuts through the party fog.

The problem with Horoscopes is they are just rubbish. Vague, contradictory and rubbish.

Oh and of course they are utterly made up.

They have as much probability of being correct as have fortune cookies, those stupid love heart sweets, a smelly gypsy with a snow globe in front of her or me for that matter.

I therefore give you my Horoscope for whatever day you end up reading this;

Sagittarius

Venus is in equinox soon and the aura from this celestial event will be affecting your mood. If not, its because you have managed to circumvent the negative ying waves. Don’t throw money away today as it will seriously affect your finances.

Leo

A disturbing warp has occurred in the moon-galaxy of your zodiac. Don’t worry, your energy levels will return with the ebb and flow of Taurus. Do not sleep with him/her tonight! You/she will get pregnant! And the baby will be really ugly – have a glass of milk and an early night.

Taurus

Alcohol and cake have taken their toll. Do not worry though, the plutonium rays from a recent Klingon retrograde will sort out your balance and you will be back to your normal happy self before you know it. If you are depressed, fat and an alcoholic – don’t drink or eat any more cake mind. Klingons cant help you. Try dieting, therapy and the AA.

Cancer

This is my star sign so tomorrow will be great. You will wake up in perfect harmony with the normally destructive Babylon waves and your body will feel perfectly equipped to deal with whatever the day has in store. You will also look great and be a great lover.

Libra

Don’t bother. Its gonna be bad whatever you do.

Gemini

If you share the house with a Libra, get the hell out. If you are with a Cancer, get back into bed with him/her, they are on fire. If you have neither go out and find a Cancer but be careful of mistaking a Leo for a Cancer. There will be consequences from such a mistake.

Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces

Whatever, a bit like Sagittarius

Aries

With a full moon equinox happening within the next twelve months anything could happen. Be a nice person, don’t pee in the shower or wear pink shirts if you are a guy.

And so on.

Its easy to do horoscopes. I could do twelve a day no problem. I might even put more effort into it if pushed.

What I don’t understand is why so many people actually read this stuff. As a bit of light-hearted fun yes but whole industries have grown up around this. Facebook and the rest of the internet is chock full of it. Newspapers are filled with this pseudo rubbish.

Astrology is fake, Pheromones are fake, quantum physics, as I have discovered, are also probably made up.

Or maybe its just me.

Maybe as I get older and supposedly wiser I am just content to understand what I understand and everything else I will just drop into a box labelled ‘made up nonsense’. I’ve recently dropped Minecraft into that box along with Pheromones and now horoscopes.

It’s a big and growing box and this is what scares me. I’m terrified when the day arrives that I drop ‘Music or the youth of today’ into that box.

I therefore resolve in 2014 to start taking an interest in my thirteen year old son’s musical preferences. I will strive to become hip (again) next year. I will learn how to build badly pixelated stuff in a fake world with a rubbish looking axe. I will also sign up to a daily Facebook horoscope feed.

In short I will do anything to rid myself of the sudden liking I have for collecting fridge magnets, general aging and the realisation that my 43 years of collected wisdom is fairly useless.

I might even buy a motorbike.