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The twilight of populism?

November 3, 2020 Bart Hulley 0

It has been hard to ignore the goings-on state-side over the past few months. Never before has the pathetic state of our American cousins’ democracy been so evident. How is it that the world’s largest democracy (note I did not use the word ‘greatest’) continues to be so undemocratic? What other nation on earth would describe the Electoral College as a just system for a representative democracy? From the nation that gave us the word, it is simply Gerrymandering on a national scale. How is it that the Republican party is allowed to get away with Gerrymandering seats for the two houses of government as well as loading the judicial system with its cronies? How is it that many states get away with voter suppression, and unchecked by the judicial system? How is it that a supposedly secular nation thinks that belief in God is a key requirement for serving your country? How is it that gun reform plays no part in policy discussion, when guns are the nation’s biggest problem? How is it that the healthcare system is so broken that sick people actively avoid seeing a doctor? America is broken. Yet, no one talks about desperately needed electoral and constitutional reform. If Biden wins, with a majority in both houses, he will have the mandate to tackle all of America’s woes. Whether he has the charisma or the willpower to reform the nation remains to be seen. We can but hope, for the sake of all Americans. From France’s perspective, should Trump be kicked out on his arse, it will bode well. With Marine LePen likely to take another shot at the Élysée in 2022 it would be comforting to know that the tide has turned against populism, and that the world’s electorate have finally woken up.  

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June 24, 2016 Bart Hulley 0

Referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of something you can’t comprehend. Vote only once by putting a cross

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Imagine no religion

November 17, 2015 Bart Hulley 0

When I was about 13 years old our high-school English teacher asked us to write about something that we thought needed changing. As inspiration he gave us an example: Should First Division football clubs be allowed to replace the grass pitches with plastic/synthetic ones? The objective of the exercise was to express an opinion while understanding both sides of the argument. He was a little surprised therefore to read my essay entitled “Should the world ban religion?” The choice of subject matter was worrying, apparently, and I was asked to stay behind after class to explain myself. He was surprised to learn that, unlike many of my classmates, I did not spend my free time following a football team – but rather The News. I had been struck by the events in Northern Ireland, as seemingly a day didn’t go by without another tit-for-tat killing in the province, and had come to the conclusion that the root cause of the problem was religion. The simplistic view of a teenager, yet, on reflection, not entirely inaccurate. I of course had very little understanding of the situation but figures like The Rev. Ian Paisley scared me. As an evangelical fundamentalist preacher he appeared to represent a nation at war over religion (although the troubles actually had very little to do with religion and Paisley was actually the pacifist who ultimately made peace possible! Doh!) Anyway, I suppose this was the first time I really understood that people were prepared to kill or die for  different interpretations of Christianity – and I simply thought that was stupid. Religion, as far as I was concerned, served but a moral purpose – it existed, nay was invented, so that people would learn to behave themselves and be nice to one-another. People who used it as an excuse to murder – simply didn’t understand it. My essay was, I admit, total drivel and my conclusion overly simplistic: Religion causes war – so it should be banned.  He gave me a C+. Banning religion has been dabbled with throughout the course of history of course, but with little success. Religion it seems is the net result of collective belief – and the only way you can delineate what people believe is through education. I think it is safe to say that the people who have attacked/maimed/killed/slaughtered other people around the world in recent times had only one [Read more >>>>]

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The Secret Throne

March 21, 2014 Bart Hulley 0

Instead of a rambling post about the layout of the University Arts faculty I thought you might appreciate my musings presented in a more creative manner, today.  There follows my March offering to the Strasbourg English Writers Group – a true story – enjoy! ****************** With his belly still luxuriating in its recently added contents Barney sauntered back across the campus to the arts faculty where he had an increasingly urgent appointment on the second floor. Why it was on the second floor, and not the third or the first, was a mystery. It probably had something to do with its location relative to other equally well furnished facilities in the faculty, of which there weren’t many of course. Barney was worried however that his little, secret, corner of the University could soon be destroyed in the same way so many others had been before. Indeed, evidence suggested that it had recently been discovered by those less stable members of society who revelled in the destruction and defacement of public property. At his last visit he had noticed that one of the paper-holder covers had been removed and purposely slotted down behind the radiator that stood opposite the cubicle doors. It had then slipped down so that its bottom half had then wedged itself behind the pipes along the skirting that fed the radiator. No cleaner passing through could possibly have had the right tools to extricate it and restore it to its rightful home. A long, industrial pair of tweezers or the removal of the entire radiator unit were the only two possible ways it could be retrieved. Barney broke step briefly as he reached the edge of the side terrace that lead round to the main entrance of the faculty. Something was different about the fire escape door at the end of the building. This was the door that Barney regularly sought on his way out to the refectory; it was a short-cut that bypassed the need to walk through the front atrium, a real boon if lectures had just finished and the front entrance was rammed with smokers. Like most fire exits it was usually only possible to exit from it, but, today, it had a handle on it; for opening from the outside. Why someone would suddenly decide to add a handle to a door that had existed happily until now with just a release bar [Read more >>>>]

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Make it happen

August 27, 2013 Bart Hulley 0

It’s not often that the manufacturers slogan on a shopping trolley is worth a second look, in fact it’s never worth a second look unless you happen to be a buyer for a chain of supermarkets, however a recent visit to one UK chain store had me sniggering to myself … During my short time as Corporate Brand Guardian for Invensys plc I was invited to attend a presentation at London blue-chip agency J. Walter Thompson (JWT), where they intended to present the ‘solution’ to our advertising problems.  The problems we had were many as our company totally lacked any sort of coherence as to what it actually did; “Widgets” we used to tell people. The slick presentation by the suits at the very new and plush HQ in Knightsbridge was almost convincing.  However, as our own Director of Communications rightly pointed out, sticking ‘MAKE IT HAPPEN’ under our logo wouldn’t really help to explain that we made food processing equipment and railway signals. We rejected the idea and left. Happily for JWT the next big client who sat in on the very same presentation bought it.  Although quite why Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) thought it appropriate is hard to say – what were they going to make happen exactly?  Did they foresee the taxpayer bail-out? Did they originally intend to have a longer strapline that began “Financial ruin…”. Next up to take the same meaningless strapline was Chevrolet. Again, what did they think you would make happen in a crappy American car? Regret perhaps? Both RBS and Chevrolet eventually saw sense and dropped it, but not before they’d both wasted millions. And finally it was on an Asda supermarket forecourt that I read the very same three words under the logo of the shopping trolley manufacturers’ logo.  At least here you could give them some credit for their choice … it’d be hard to go shopping around a giant superstore without a trolley. “We need a snappy strapline” is the phrase most often spoken at Ad Agency client meetings, but clearly the results suggest that is heard as either “We need a crappy strapline” or “We need a snappy crapline” by the men in suits.

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October 27, 2012 Bart Hulley 0

Firstly I should apologise to ‘organic’ surfers who have hit this page in search of the latest gossip about Bono et al. – because this post has nothing to do with ageing Irish Rock Bands.  Well, almost nothing. Actually, I have to confess, my fondness for U2 (yes, the band) has been on the wane since arriving in Strasbourg. Perhaps if Top Music, RFM, Virgin and just about every other ‘pop’ radio station didn’t play their tracks incessantly – then I might not feel this way. One supposes that their popularity relates partly to Bono’s crisp elocution.  After all, if you can sing along (albeit in a foreign language) then it adds a certain je ne sais quoi.  This would also explain the equal saturation of Phil Collins and Supertramp on the airwaves. I digress. U2 also happens to be the name given to the University of Strasbourg’s Humanities Library (“U2-U3” to give it it’s full title).  Why it was named suchly I cannot fathom, but it certainly paints the building as an enigma. The U2 sits unassumingly at the edge of the University campus, ingeniously disguised as an abandoned WWII pill-box.  This appearance ensures that the people for whom it was built (students) ignore it entirely.  Which means that, on the inside, the librarians don’t have to deal with the tiresome and unwashed all day long. Those of us who have bothered to read the literature – and are able to correctly identify the U2 as a library – can therefore profite from this serene academic environment par exellence.  It is modern, bright and spacious.  There are different study zones: a comfy place to read the press, TV sets with headphones, individual reading booths (with fold-down book-rest, individual study desks, individual reading desks (sloping), group-work/meeting rooms and two large reading rooms with spacious desks. The U2 forms the third piece in Strasbourg’s Triumvirate of Super-Libraries.  The second is the André-Malraux public library at Rivetoile, a five storey creation featuring café/TV lounge, public internet terminals, conference facilities and two large study/reading rooms; and the first piece is the BNU on Place de la République, built by the Prussians when Strasbourg was part of Germany at the end of the 19th Century; currently undergoing a major facelift, it is due to reopen in time for the rentree in 2013. Happily, for those of us who actually want to study outside of [Read more >>>>]

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The worst ad on TV?

June 5, 2012 Bart Hulley 0

The arrival of the amiable Jo-Wilfred Tsonga on our screens, as Roland Garros graces us once more with two weeks of top-notch tennis, is a welcome sight … for once. While his boyish charm and and sporting prowess make JW one of France’s best-loved sportsmen, his role in a seemingly never-ending TV campaign for Kinder Bueno make his face a less-then-welcome sight for the rest of the year. The creatives in adland have decided that Beuno is great for sharing – because it is formed of two sickly-sweet  bars of chocolate. So, each ad features Mr Tsonga sharing his Beuno with an attractive girl. OK, so the idea is not bad on paper. However the scenario is excruciatingly contrived, the production values are lamentable and the acting is about what you’d expect from an Australian soap opera. To cap it all the choice of music that accompanies the outro is Lilly Allen’s “22” – with the wildly (in)appropriate lyrics “It’s sad but it’s true how society says, Her life is already over” – implying that the girl who is forced to share her chocolate bar with Jo-Wilfred is a hopeless case. “There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say” – indeed not.

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I picked the Grand National Winner!

April 15, 2012 Bart Hulley 0

… shame I didn’t place a bet. Or rather, was unable to place a bet. I spent some forty minutes or so before the ‘off’ trying, in vain, to get access to my Ladbrokes account in order to stick four pounds each way on Neptune Collonges. However, my efforts proved fruitless. So it was with heavy heart that I watched my nag cross the line at Aintree in first place.  Mince! Before you techie people punt in with a comment about ‘proxy’ services – a way you can trick websites into thinking you’re in a different country – I tried that too – but also without success. A little digging as to why Grand Frère did not want me to place a bet using a foreign betting service reveals that that old French trait ‘protectionism’ has a lot to do with it.  If, for example, I had tried to bet using the government’s own betting service – I would have met with no resistance (but I have 15 GBP sitting in my Ladbrokes account!). The French, of course, don’t like it if you go abroad for something that you could get right here in France – if you bothered to look.  Forget the free market or the single market – if it ain’t French you’re in for a hard time.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the gambling sector where a recent law has ensured that the mountains of money flying into the coffers of off-shore gambling sites has been stopped, dead. The 2010 law, that saw the creation of the Online Gaming Authority (ARJEL), uses as it’s pretext: consumer protection, the fight against money laundering and fraud … and the security and protection of the national sports industry.  This last point enables ARJEL to block even legitimate foreign betting sites, like Ladbrokes, unless they pay-up for a license.

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Bunch of poo-heads

March 30, 2012 Bart Hulley 0

It’s around this time of year, every year since our arrival in France in fact, that Les Enfoirés make their appearance on our TV screens. Each year these fifty or so celebrities tour the nation with a show to raise money for the national soup-kitchen charity Restos du Cœur (Restaurants of the heart). All very admirable. […]