The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Best Monday Ever …
September 25, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Brand Suicide, Nottingham Forest

… because I’m away for 3 days and so there’s no blog posts.

You’re welcome.

However, to make sure you don’t get off too lightly, here’s something for you to watch and get annoyed by.

When I say annoy, I mean laugh at and then pity.

Till Thursday …

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We Are All The Same. We Are All Different.

So for the past 2 days I’ve been writing a lot about equality.

It’s a subject very close to my heart.

To be honest, it always has been but being a Father has raised it’s importance.

In some ways, having Otis grow up in China made things easier as it meant he was exposed to different cultures from day 1 but I didn’t want to take that for granted, so when we knew we were going to move to the US, I spoke to a friend of mine – a Brit, who is black and lives in the US – about the [thankfully small] issues his kids faced being in the US and what he thought parents should teach their kids to stop that happening.

His response was phenomenal.

In essence there were 2 parts.

The first was the obvious one – treat every person from every culture the same way – with respect, appreciation and consideration.

So far so good … but it was the next bit that really made an impact.

Don’t tell Otis different cultures are all the same.

Don’t ‘whitewash’ our differences, acknowledge them … enrich Otis with understanding about different cultures history, struggles and values.

Or said another way … celebrate the differences but treat everyone the same.

Brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant.

In a World where so much hate is built simply on ‘being different’, helping break down those walls through knowledge and understanding is even more powerful than just saying ‘don’t see the colour, see the person’.

Of course it’s vital to treat people the same, but understanding the background isn’t just a mark of respect – it’s a way to celebrate strengths and understand behaviours that you may otherwise judge for no other reason than your own in-built prejudices.

So among Otis’ books on animals and dinosaurs and Peppa fucking Pig, he has books that explore the cultures associated with Africa [‘Africa Is Not A Country’ & ‘Sundiata’], Mexico [‘Tequila Worm’] and the Middle East [‘My Fathers Shop’].

Now I appreciate some people may think we are going a bit over-the-top with this.

After all, Otis is only 2 and a half.

But, as I have written before, I’ve learnt not to care what others think.

I’ve learnt people often mistake being a parent with being an ‘expert’ on kids.

I’ve also learnt kids develop so many of their behaviours by being masters of mimicking how their parents behave.

[Jill hopes she can stop him fall victim to ironic t-shirts and Birkenstocks]

At the end of the day, we believe we have a responsibility to him – and society as a whole – to encourage the values and beliefs that can enable him to be a good human being … someone who doesn’t just contribute to society in terms of what he achieves, but in terms of what he helps others achieve.

Of course we know he will face challenges.

Peer pressure. Unexpected circumstances. The allure of mischief.

And while we can’t dictate how he handles those things, we hope we can prepare him to deal with them in a way where he can hold his head high … which is why on top of being loving, supporting parents, we will buy him books on understanding different cultures, give him dolls to play with and encourage him to play with his beloved pink kitchen.

Being a Father is one of the most amazing things that has happened in my life.

I feel embarrassed to admit I had no idea how good it would be … and while being a good parent is basically a matter of trying things with good intent, I want to say a big thank you to Karrelle Dixon … because he may not realise it, but he made a big difference to how my little boy will grow up. Not in terms of respect, but in terms of understanding … and when you think about it, that’s one of the most wonderful gifts you can give anyone.

I hope my parents would think we’re doing good with their grandson.

I think they would.



Finally …
September 18, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Insight

3 days after I arrived in the US, I ordered a new car.

This was momentous for a bunch of reasons.

1. It was only the 2nd car I’d ever bought.
2. It was the first car I was going to have after 15 years.

Of course, because I’m a sad bastard, I wanted all the gadgets in it which meant I’ve had to sit on my hands for 4 months while the bloody thing was built for me.

That might not sound much, but for an only child, that is like being sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Well, after driving Jill mad with continual ‘Youtube video car review’ watching [hey, what can I say, I was really excited about getting it], it’s finally arrived.

Actually, to be specific, it arrived earlier last week but typical of karma getting her own back on me, I was away so couldn’t get to it.

I cannot tell you how hard that was for me. Yeah, I know, it’s a first world problem but it was still bloody painful.

Well, not I’ve got it, I am beside myself with joy.

Every time I look at it I smile a massive smile.

Part of that is because I can’t believe it is mine mainly because I don’t think I deserve it.

OK, so you probably feel I don’t deserve it either, but what I actually mean is that deep down, I don’t feel I should ever be in a position to own such a car. I’m not trying to act humble or anything, it’s just that when I think of my parents – both of whom were smarter and better humans than me – they could never of had such a thing so the fact I can reinforces both how lucky I am and how unfair things are for others.

To be honest, this feeling is one of the reasons I insisted we get Jill a new, new car.

Without going into too much, she’s had a bunch of hardship in her life [and I don’t just mean being married to me] so being in a position to get her something she never thought she would ever have, gave me incredibly happiness.

Of course the ultimate revenge is the fact that the moment you drive a new car out of a dealership, it is worth a good deal less than you paid for it, but what some fail to realise is buying a new car isn’t about practicality but emotion.

I’m not even talking about it in terms of materialism or status … for me, I’m talking about it in terms of being a proper adult.

Well, as ‘proper an adult’ as I’ll ever be.

I appreciate that sounds wank – and it probably is – but now I have a family, a car lets me feel I’m able to do my bit for them.

To take them on adventures.

To let us be more spontaneous.

To just go out and explore more easily.

I get many of you will think this is all an excuse designed to try and justify my choice of car – and maybe I’m kidding myself and this is simply a case of me wanting to have a car, especially when I’m living in the city of cars – but I really feel this will fundamentally change the life we are living here in a great way and that excites me hugely.

Let’s just hope I don’t crash the bloody thing …



Is Marcus A Devious Bastard?
September 14, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Brand Suicide, Comment, Marketing Fail, Standards, Talent

A few weeks ago I wrote about a Facebook ad Marcus sent me.

It was for some tech support social platform and – alarmingly – featured an illustration that looked very much like me.

As in, it looked EXACTLY like me.

Well either Marcus was behind it or he’s frequenting some very weird places on the net, because he just sent me another one.

Yes, another!

Same company.

Same social platform.

Same – but in a different pose – illustration of me.

WHAT. THE. FUCK?

I know we keep talking about the personalisation of ads, but this is ridiculous.

It also shows an alarming lack of strategy, because anyone worth their salt would know I wouldn’t want to be part of something I’m part of.



Everything Wrong With America In A Picture …
September 12, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Comment, Culture, Empathy

What I find interesting living in the US is that debate is often viewed as attack.

OK, that is not exclusive to America, but in comparison to the many countries I’ve lived in – it certainly seems to be more of a trigger switch in people than I’ve experienced before.

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone is like that and I’m thoroughly enjoying being in the US [though I do miss China, which might sound weird to some] but it hasn’t taken me long to identify a range of subjects where you feel the tension in the room go from 0-100mph in the blink of an eye.

Religion, politics, race, wealth/poverty, abortion, healthcare and gun control are basically conversation hand grenades and yet they’re the very subjects America needs to talk about so the country can move forward rather than stand still and rip itself apart.

Now I appreciate these would be touchy subjects in any culture, but in America, the mere mention of any of these subjects results in either aggression or total shut down and frankly, I find that very disturbing, especially for a country that talks about freedom of speech.

Of course in my experience, I’ve found the people not willing to talk about certain subjects are often the ones who have something invested in keeping things exactly as they are, which is probably why the NRA continues to push weapon ownership – as the above photo demonstrates – despite huge amounts of evidence that gun ownership is contributing to gun crimes. [Which, let’s be honest, is hardly a surprise]

Perhaps the thing that bothers me most is this belief that if you give any counter argument a moment of consideration, you are seen – or made to feel – a traitor to your cause.

Not smart.

Not fair.

Not informed.

You’re a bloody traitor.

The irony of this approach is it’s been proven that when people feel they’ve been listened to, the level of aggression they feel is vastly reduced, even if the outcome remains the same.

America is a wonderful country but it’s a land of extremes.

Forward thinking yet insanely conservative.

Religious yet war loving.

Deeply patriotic yet massively divided.

If Trump really wants to make this country great again, then a good place to start might be to encourage the spirt of debate again.

Contrary to what the President may think, debate doesn’t mean the wheels keep spinning and nothing gets done … it means that before a decision is made, people have talked and discussed the situation without aggressiveness, put-downs or abuse. He might find this hard to believe, but it may even lead to better decisions … but more than that, you can’t be a nation that celebrates ‘freedom of speech’ when – as the Dixie Chicks learned – anyone who expresses their opinion finds out it has just cost them a huge amount.



Speak In A Way Culture Can Hear …

I know this week has been a week of super short, super bad posts – even by my standards – but today I end the week on a longer and more serious note.

A few weeks ago, the country singer Glen Campbell died.

Despite sharing the same surname, I have never shown any interest in this singer/songwriter because basically, I hate country music.

Sure, I knew a couple of his songs, but if you’d asked me who sang them, I would have not been able to tell you in a million years.

So why am I writing about his death?

Well, when he died, a friend of mine – who is a massive music guy – wrote on his Facebook about Glen Campbell’s life and there was one bit that really hit me which was how he dealt with being diagnosed with Alzheimers.

Rather than retire quietly, he stepped up his workload.

Not to capitalize on his illness or end his career on a high … but because music was something he loved and he wanted to enjoy it before he forgot it.

And he was forgetting it.

He needed a teleprompter on stage to help him remember the lyrics to his songs.

He needed to be reminded that some members of his band were his very own children.

But that’s not the thing that hit me, it was the fact that he wrote a song about his illness called, ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’.

To be honest, just hearing he had done that reminded me of the poem Clive James wrote about his impending death. A post that was extra significant at the time because I was about to fly to England to be with my Mum for her impending heart operation – an operation that sadly didn’t work.

As many of you know, I’ve written a lot about death.

Not because I particularly like the subject, but because I believe not talking about it can do us far more harm.

It’s never a comfortable topic to discuss, but I know my denial of my Fathers situation led to me experiencing 10 years of pain.

And while my Mum died unexpectedly, she had made sure that it was something we talked about in general terms and then – as an act of love that is almost impossible to comprehend – she quietly made arrangements to ensure that if she did not get through the operation, the legal ramifications of her passing would not add extra burden to my broken heart.

I must admit, I initially found it hard to think that she had done this for me.

Of course I recognised it as an act of love but as she had once told me that she was scared of dying alone, I imagined her fears would have become even stronger while she was preparing all these things for me.

I’ve got to be honest, it’s only writing this that has made me realise that regardless the nervousness Mum was feeling, she would also have had a sense of contentment that she was able to do this for me.

That’s a level of love that has literally made me tear up while I am writing this which reinforces why I am so, so glad that she knew I was with her when the worse moment happened.

I write all this because I hope Glen Campbell’s family will one day feel the same sense of love when they read the lyrics to his sons, ‘I’m not gonna miss you’.

I can’t imagine how it must have felt hearing this song for the first time – especially as his Alzheimers had only just been diagnosed – but in time, I truly hope they can see past the pain and feel the love of someone who, at their darkest hour, wanted them to know how much he loved them.

I’m still here, but yet I’m gone
I don’t play guitar or sing my songs
They never defined who I am
The man that loves you ’til the end
You’re the last person I will love
You’re the last face I will recall
And best of all, I’m not gonna miss you
Not gonna miss you
I’m never gonna hold you like I did
Or say I love you to the kids
You’re never gonna see it in my eyes
It’s not gonna hurt me when you cry
I’m never gonna know what you go through
All the things I say or do
All the hurt and all the pain
One thing selfishly remains
I’m not gonna miss you
I’m not gonna miss you

It those lyrics haven’t affected you, then you’re not human.

Which leads to a point I’d like to make about advertising.

No, really …

As you will have worked out by now, I am an emotional bloke.

Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t value intelligence or information or data, it’s just that if our learnings aren’t conveyed in a way that captures how our audience actually feels, it becomes ‘cold’ to me.

Part of this is because I believe our job is to connect to culture, part of this is because I believe creativity should push and provoke … but mostly, it’s because I believe the best work connects to audiences on a much deeper level than the superficial.

Put simply, it feels like it’s come from inside the culture rather than from someone observing it.

And that’s why Glen Campbell’s song is so powerful to me … because even though I hate country music, when I read his lyrics, I was reminded that great work talks in a way you powerfully feel rather than passively rationalize.

Thank you for the lesson Glen.



LaLaLand In A Picture …
September 7, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, LaLaLand

This is what I am dealing with …

Bravery doesn’t cover the half of it. Ahem.