Valentines Day Economics

15 February 2009

So, Saturday was Valentines day. You know, that day when you spend crazy amounts on overpriced roses, dinner out with other couples all trying to compete as to how in love they are, and then end up too full of food to do anything romantic on arrival home.

Maybe it’s OK to hate Valentines Day, I mean we’re in a CREDIT CRUNCH people! Maybe forget the overpriced flowers (by the way, it’s not the florists fault their suppliers increase prices) and drop a fifty pound note in a card instead.

Or perhaps there’s more to it, a rational approach to Valentines day:

  • The peacock tail effect. Peacocks elaborate tails prove their genetic fitness. Similarly, a man who spends money on Vally day is signalling his ability as a provider: “look, I can offer you so much that I can afford to fritter money away on gestures.”
  • Investment in commitment. Dinner together is an investment in the other person.
  • A man who rejects the social norm of Vally day increases uncertainty about who he is. The partner thinks: “if he rejects this cultural norm, what other norms does he reject. What sort of guy is this?”
  • If your partner is looking for commitment, they’d not want a the kind of guy who is so rational that he’d economically reject Vally day: such a man will leave you the moment a better offer comes along, surely.

Or perhaps, it’s just romantic…

I took my partner to our favourite local tapas bar – somewhere we both like where sharing food (romantic, hint) is part of the deal, but not so overly-candled and over-priced that you’d feel compelled to pull out the diamond ring.

Stuff the ignorant, economic or rational approaches to Valentines day, and go for the romantic – the one you and our partner will love, because you know them and you know what they like… surely that’s the most romantic gesture of all…

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The blandness of unreality

1 November 2008

So it’s been a while since I posted anything other then my Delicious links, and I’m posting now with no experience of, but a judgment on, Westfield Shopping Centre in London’s Shepherd’s Bush. So, what’s the big deal? The centre opened to the public on 30th October 2008: 150,000m² (1.615m ft²) of space to shop in 255 stores, the third largest shopping centre in the UK, sold as a “new retail experience”. And it received some good press: a covered indoor mall combining the top and middle of the market – booming in its first few days even in a credit crunch.

But it hasn’t pleased everyone:

“It’s more Gatwick village than Liberty, all airport ambience and airlessness, an everywhere and nowhere place, everytown and no town, every familiar shop in every high street, the same, same, same. Eclectic, bold, extraordinary? Only if you have never seen a Tie Rack, Gap or New Look.”

But, let’s not forget it’s a shopping centre. This is the disneyland of retail – show and gloss, nothing real. Some people have suggested that it “is a unique and democratic way of shopping, where highstreet brands sit cheek by jowl with designer labels as well as supermarket shopping”. But the truth is it’s the most undemoctratic shopping experience that can exist – a fully privatised space where the company that runs it (who earned $5.58 billion profit in 2005/6) can control what happens. This is not a place. It’s a non-place. It’s not a city: a city is democratic – a city where you can demonstrate on the street, busk, shop or saunter.

And, this ‘democtratic’, privatised future of consumerist excess on cheap credit does nothing to help the very deprived area it’s landed, alien-like, in. It’s a closed-off traffic-jam generating privatised space with no connection to the place around it and very little benefit for it too. In the words of one resident:

“If you don’t turn off towards Europe’s newest, largest shopping mall but head into the grey autumn of Shepherd’s Bush Green, where the local residents walk their pitbulls and the 99p stores will sell you a handbag and an umbrella, but no real, authentic Prada or Chanel. The rest of the “Bush” looks terrible now up against all that is shiny and new. Squalid isn’t the word.”

And yet this is the place not built on billions of dollars of profit – it’s the city, where we live, which is maintained by our money, and which is democratic. So if we want to build something democrtatic let’s think about how places really work – not with closed off walls and revolving doors, but linked into the fabric of the city, where people can be without the approval of corporations or security guards.


Oh well, that’s alright then

19 October 2008

Since my last post, Homophobia, the City, the Church and why it’s wrong, I saw that Reverend Peter Mullen published a column saying “Why I was wrong”. He says

“I much regret making some off-colour jokes about homosexuals on my website and I have offered a full public apology. I made those remarks and they are the responsibility of no one but myself. I repeat, I’m sorry I wrote what I did.”

I’m pleased to hear he apologises for his remarks – saying “Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH and their chins with FELLATIO KILLS. In addition the obscene “gay pride” parades and carnivals should be banned for they give rise to passive corruption, comparable to passive smoking”, and “There ought to be teaching films shown in sex education classes in all our schools. These would portray acts of sodomy and the soundtrack would reinforce the message that it is a filthy practice”.

Of course – in his apology – he goes on to say he supported the decriminalisation of homosexuality, but that gay people should stop there. He implies his main point is about Gay Pride similar parades (although it only appear to be ‘in addition’ in his original comments). He says that he opposes “the corrupting influence of the promotional parades of homosexuality by such as Gay Pride demonstrations”.

The Reverend is making the same snide assertions that are damaging as Section 28 did in the 1980s. He implies that homosexuality is promoted (as if people will become gay through watching and enjoying a pride parade) and thereby implies gay people should not be allowed to seek equality. He ignores the destructive way that being made to be, not just feel like, an outsider is damaging.

The Reverend himself talks about the suicide of Shaun Dykes in an earlier column, but ignores the fact that comments like those he makes can have a damaging effect, as I very clearly set out in my last column:

This is one week after Shaun Dykes, a gay teenager in Derby, was goaded and jeered by a crowd – filming him on mobile phones and shouting “jump you [followed by a stream of expletives]” – into killing himself (a story which made very little press) and another similar suicide in Manchester. It is also the same week as a United Nations committee has called on the UK to take “urgent measures” to fight intolerance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans young people.

Thank you, Reverend, for your apology but – whether you meant it or not – you should know better and realise what damage you do. As I said last time, your comments are nothing but damaging.


Homophobia, the City, the Church and why it’s wrong

10 October 2008

It’s ironic that, in the midst of a Credit Crunch – at least partially caused by loose-lipped City bankers talking down stocks – a loose lipped City cleric can cause damage of a different kind. The Rev. Peter Mullen, chaplain to London’s Stock Exchange, said:

Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH and their chins with FELLATIO KILLS. In addition the obscene “gay pride” parades and carnivals should be banned for they give rise to passive corruption, comparable to passive smoking.

I’m not sure what I can say about this. Apparently a “joke“, the reverend used the immortal line some of my best friends are gay – or at least the slightly more caged “many of my dear friends have been and are of that persuasion” (note the have been). Like our Tory friend, but in a rather different way, he is wrong on so many levels.

Google’s cache of his blog shows us he believes that “We disapprove of homosexuality because it is clearly unnatural, a perversion and corruption of natural instincts and affections, and because it is a cause of fatal disease”. He is right that some sexual behaviours are riskier than others. But HIV is not a gay disease. Of course he doesn’t let that get in the way of promoting modern day branding torture for gay man.

It’s also ironic he is chaplain to the London Stock Exchange. As I have previously posted the number of prospective City employees open about their sexuality has plummeted recently.

Disturbingly, the Reverend suggests that:

There ought to be teaching films shown in sex education classes in all our schools. These would portray acts of sodomy and the soundtrack would reinforce the message that it is a filthy practice ending with the admonition: “We do, after all, know the importance of washing our hands after going to the lavatory.”

This is one week after Shaun Dykes, a gay teenager in Derby, was goaded and jeered by a crowd – filming him on mobile phones and shouting “jump you [followed by a stream of expletives]” – into killing himself (a story which made very little press) and another similar suicide in Manchester. It is also the same week as a United Nations committee has called on the UK to take “urgent measures” to fight intolerance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans young people.

Rev. Peter Millen’s comments are nothing but damaging. Whatever his opinions – I’m not going to delve into debates about the bible and homosexuality – he has a responsibility not to make sick ‘jokes’ which add to the latent homophobia that still needs to be tackled in this country.


Credit Crunch – a father’s view

8 October 2008

My dad and I emailed today about money, savings, Iceland and the credit crunch… I loved his insight, so thought I’d share it:

Money’s funny stuff really…………..it doesn’t exist, unlike things!

The government did the right thing though overall for jumping in and nationalising [Bradford and Bingley], although if they had made the £50,000 offer to savers at that time they would not have needed to nationalise it. That’s what they’re doing with banks now, so that the nationalisation only happens if they reach the payout point (I think).

Really, it’s socialism by default [thelayoftheland note – not everyone agrees], which is excellent really. Now if they can re-nationslise the railways, power, and water, we’ll be laughing!!

Mind you, water is owned by the country…………………………………..but it’s France……..whoops. Le mess.

Vive la France eh?


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