16 February 2010

The great Berlin Valentine's Day Kiss-In

Yesterday’s papers were full of snippets about the handful of couples (and some singles hoping to get lucky) who had nothing better to do than stand in front of the Brandenburg Gate in freezing temperatures and snog away in public view. Maybe they were hoping for their fifteen (or even thirty seconds would do) minutes of fame on the box. I don’t know if they succeeded: I don’t have a television so I’ll never know.

What was their motive? A protest against the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day. Well lo and behold! Since when has 14th February been anything but a huge commercial funfair? The only reason everyone is bombarded with commercial messages in February is to get them hyped up and buying cards, chocolates, flowers and naff looking pieces of useless, fluffy kitsch articles remotely resembling members of the animal kingdom, which are manufactured somewhere most definitely not in Europe.

If Valentine’s Day was not made into a huge commercial event, then how on earth could retailers shift all this useless junk every year?

Incidentally, the above holds true for all the other annual pseudo/quasi-religious (or otherwise) happenings. Examples could include – Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Halloween, Carnival – I’m sure you can supply your own local traditions.

If these lovey-dovey couples really wanted to protest against the gross commercialisation of Valentine’s Day (or any other commercialisation) then there is only one effective measure which strikes right at the heart of the problem – BOYCOTT!

15 February 2010

To connect or not to connect?

There’s a battle raging out there: between e-books and paper books, between online sources and dusty old tomes languishing on dark shelves. Which one will prevail? Probably the one that makes the biggest profit for the most people.

There seems to be a lot of ink spilled these days (or should I better say, pixels being positioned?) on the detrimental effects of computers/Internet/electronic texts on the brains of young people.
Fear of the new? Perhaps. Stuck in a rut and comfortable with the Ancien RĂ©gime? Could be.

The other day at my local library, I came across a book entitled The Web Address Book for Germany 2009 (m.w. Verlag) which contains 6,000 of the most important Internet addresses. Naturally I borrowed the book. The sites contained therein were considered the most popular/useful but do not show up automatically at the top of any list of search results. Of course, with Google et al. you have to ask the right question and use the right words to get the answer you’re looking for. Inevitably, Number 1 on any list is always Wikipedia. And to find a ‘good’ site you have to sift through no end of c**p. It’s gentler on the nerves to leaf through a book. Which is what I did.

By the way (or “BTW” for those who are fluent only in chat room lingo), there was a whole aisle of shelves in the library positively groaning with manuals on how to use Windows, Linux, PowerPoint, Excel etc.

After much perambulation, let me get to the point. Even today, you still need a book to show you the ins and outs of a computer and the Internet.

4 February 2010

Second helping for breakfast

Maria Anna Muller is such a remarkable individual that Die Zeit has dedicated a whole article to her (http://www.zeit.de/karriere/beruf/2010-02/frauen-fuehrungsposition-flughafen). Why? She is Germany’s sole female airport manager (at Rostock-Laage). The real purpose of the article was to look at the airport’s weak financial position and to see how it could be turned around. This being so, why then does the article mention as its first sentence the fact that the manager is a woman? The insinuation (to my cynical thought processes) is inevitable: woman boss – failing company. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Oh No! Exams!

As an educator and parent, I was tempted to read an article promising to help students revise for exams. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/7138982/Ten-top-revision-tips.html). I really should have stayed in the kitchen and descaled the kettle instead.

Lots of really useful tips here!

It helps, of course, if Mummy and Daddy are loaded and can afford to send their progeny to Oxford’s residential courses. (We all know, as well, that a good education is something highly cherished and jealously guarded by the Great and the Good). Then there’s the cramming … um, sorry … ‘revision’ courses providing reinforcement where necessary. A snip at ₤350 per subject. If the young one is a bit bashful about displaying his/her intellectual prowess in front of peers, then a private tutor could be brought in (₤25-₤50 an hour – now there’s an idea for an interesting sideline).

After the hard slog, the candidate will need lots of frequent breaks, plenty of amusing diversions and treats as rewards for good work done i.e. pizza and a video.

I’m sorry to say that the Telegraph’s Top Ten Revision “Tips” should be renamed “Top Ten Revision Hard Sells”: my computer screen turned blue with links from all the “educational” institutes who are falling over themselves to help this year’s batch of sprogs get through exams (without resorting to cheating).

In my day, things were a lot simpler. Not having the benefit of a privileged background (nor come to that, revision nannies, Internet, Oxbridge residential courses, private tutelage), my elders and betters could offer me only one sound piece of advice when it came to preparing for important exams: GET YOUR BOOKS OUT AND START READING!

3 February 2010

Let the music begin

Whoever said that adherents to YouTube were uncultered? Behold a dialogue among aficionados of one particular rock star:

Lenny Rock God!
Only Yahweh is God!
There is no God at all!

These three individuals managed to run the whole gamut of theological debate in a succinct, Hegelian-dialectic style discourse of only fourteen words. I defy any Doctor of Theology to do likewise!

A working breakfast

A news site recently reported:
“Women are dramatically under-represented in the boardrooms of major
corporations in Germany and need state-imposed quotas to achieve parity.”
(http://www.thelocal.de/money/20100127-24863.html) Well, I never! What a revelation – you could have knocked me down with a feather!

Did it take them many months of investigation and research to come up with this earth shaking conclusion? Were many man/woman-hours expended in reaching this outcome? (Far be it for me to criticise or state the obvious, but this august institute need look no further than its own internal hierarchy to come up with exactly the same answer.) Why didn’t they just come and ask me? I could have told them exactly the same thing, for free, and on the spot. I’m sure a lot of other ordinary people in the street could have told them the same piece of information as well. One need not look further than one’s own local discount supermarket: even in these humble business establishments, you can bet your bottom Euro that the manager will be a man. Ditto in any other retail outlets, be they department stores, electrical stores or what have you. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve walked into a big store and been confronted by a wall of mug shots of employees serving at that particular branch. A mixture of men and women at the bottom of the pile, but as you get higher up the hierarchy, the women disappear.

If women can’t get to be supermarket managers, then how do you expect them to get the key to the boardroom washroom?

The Institute for Economic Research (http://www.diw.de/de) did well to interrogate gender imbalances in areas of vital importance to society. What everyone needs to do now, however, is ask why these imbalances exist in the first place. Once we have found out the answer to that particular thorny question, we must then ask ourselves how we can correct the imbalance.

Laura Liswood has also looked at the issue of women at the top (http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,675620,00.html - ‘Men Who Have Daughters Tend to See Better’). Much more needs to be done than merely imposing quotas on parliaments and boards. Perhaps it is a lot more difficult than we imagine to change centuries of deeply entrenched prejudices and mindsets.

Incidentally, some may see this issue as a “work-life balance” issue. But why should someone have to choose between either work or life? Work is a part of life; life encompasses everything and everyone. If work does not belong to that vast category called ‘life’ then where does it belong?
Creative Commons License
Squeaky Door by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.