31 October 2011

Daddy's team

I grew up in a family of girls. I have two sisters and our closest family (physically) were four girl cousins. And we are GIRLY-girls! Nail varnish and lipstick, dresses and high-heels, handbags, cute boys, celebrity gossip -- all eternally common topics of conversation. So it's no surprise that in my youth, "Who's your favourite Spice Girl?" was infinitely more important than "Who's your favourite football team?".

But I've recently become fascinated by this whole palava of choosing a team. Or, do you really get to choose? As I've said, for me, picking a team, be it football (the real kind or the american variety), baseball, rugby, or anything else... it was just never an issue for me. The only team I can say I "support" in any sense of that word is West Indies cricket, which yes, my Dad also supports. But it's our national team and there is NO choice!

Supporting Windies

Last week I read this: How We Become Sports Fans: the Tyranny of Fathers by Robert Krulwich on the NPR website. The video below accompanies the article and sums up, in both a funny and sad way, how the majority of little boys and girls learn which team to support: Dad!

The article discusses statistics that show that most people choose to support the team their Dad supports. A lot of the time, as we see in the video, there is immense pressure to go with your Dad's team. I think this is in large part because being a fan, a real fan, means having such a great emotional connection to your team. Being a real fan involves such an insane sense of loyalty; you're team becomes, in a way, your family. So who would want to create a conflict of interest between your real family and your sport family? Krulwich also argues that sharing in Dad's emotional reaction to the triumphs and defeat of his team is important bonding opportunities for kids. It's a fair point.

But there are people who choose not to support Daddy's team. It is rare, but it happens. What about you? Did you pick your Dad's team?

28 October 2011

Intrepid Fridge Forager

If you live in the UK and you own a TV, you've probably seen this advert a few times this year. But watch it again, you know you love it!

This tele advert is the shining star of a whole campaign put out by Lurpak: Good Food Deserves Lurpak. I LOVE this campaign. It is built on the premise that in a world where everyone is always busy and fast-food and ready-meals are quick, cheap and easy, fewer of us are making the effort to cook real food. Of course, for a company that produces and sells butter this isn't ideal. You don't need butter for your microwave dinners. So these ads are inspiring consumers to cook and eat REAL food. But the point that makes it brilliant is that most of the ads feature really simple, hearty, tasty food; you don't need to be a Master Chef to make an omelet.

from here
from here
from here
from here

These are some of my favourite of the print ads. They are plastered all over tube stations across London and I gawk at them shamelessly all the time. Though in true form, I've borrowed all these pictures from somewhere else as my own photographic skills are seriously lacking. In my search I also found that Lurpak's Flickr is a gem for food porn! Score!

There are tonnes more of these around and I'm sure many of you have seen them. What's your favourite?

26 October 2011

Lovin' Lego

Last week two great new music videos hit the internet. In six days, one of these already has over 11 million views on YouTube. The other, a mere 2 and a half million in comparison. You've probably already guessed that the first one is Rihanna's We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris. This video has gone viral on a massive scale! I'm always ready to big-up Ri-Ri and I actually do think this video is very cool (and also a little scary).

But it's really the other one that I want to share with you. It's Ed Sheeran's Lego House. I think it is brilliant! In case you haven't seen it yet, I don't really want to give away the ending except to say that it is unexpected and hilarious and just pure class. Watch it! I've seen it again and again and I laugh every time.

Many of you who know me personally already know that TWO gingers in one video... it's practically porn for me! Go ahead, judge away... I'm not slightly embarrassed that both of these boys are on my celebrity crush list.

24 October 2011

Warning: Academic Content!

I recently came across this article in the New Left Review: The Political Economy of Unhappiness, by William Davies. So, yes, it is quite academic and intellectual and the writing style isn't exactly light-leisure-reading. That said, it is a relatively easy read and makes some really interesting points. Bare with me. You'll like this, I promise (maybe).

In a very basic summary, the premise for this article is that physical and mental health (or "wellbeing" as Davies says) are economic resources. Why? Well, for starters the annual cost of health related absence from work in the UK is £100 billion. That's a lot of money and a HUGE concern to employers, economists, and policy-makers. If you're sick you can't go to work, and this gives your health an economic value.

Davies discusses a recent shift in the way we understand health and recovery. Whereas the traditional prescription for most illnesses is to rest and let your body recover, research is now showing that going back to work may actually help recovery.
"...Even where work is primarily physical, medical and economic orthodoxy had underestimated the importance of psychological factors in determining health and productivity. Being at work has the psychological effect of making people believe themselves to be well, which in turn has a positive effect on their physical wellbeing."
Essentially, we are likely to recover from illness faster and better at work: Work = Happiness = Health.

Now here is where it gets interesting. As labour has become more immaterial (we're not putting machines together in factories, we're now putting ideas together in conference rooms), illness has become more immaterial too. We don't suffer from fever and runny noses as much as we suffer from depression and anxiety. Look at this graph; it shows the increasing number of sick days taken on account of mental ailments. 40% of all sick leave in 2007!

Ok, back to the economics! So more and more people are missing work because they are depressed and this is costing employers and costing the government. So now it is a lot easier to get psychological treatment through the NHS in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (apparently CBT tends to be controversial among psychologists but I lack the knowledge to comment on that). Simply put, the government is investing in your mental wellbeing so that you can go to work! In line with this, CBT has also become an important part of programmes for the unemployed.

You've probably noticed a little contradiction here. Work is meant to make us happy and healthy. So why are we increasingly skipping out on work because of unhappiness? Well, this may come as a shock to you, but work isn't the only thing that makes us happy. I know - mind boggling, right? Oh... you're not surprised? Ok then.

Studies repeatedly show that access to public goods makes people happy. Davies gives examples of this research technique that asks people to give a monetary value to social or public goods. For example, how much extra income would you need to maintain your current level of happiness if you, say, couldn't attend concerts? This particular public good happens to be valued at nine grand/year. Personally, I think this kind of methodology is pure genius! It is simply an extension of school-boy bets: "I'll give you £2 to eat a handful of dirt." "No way! I wont do it for less than £5!" Thus, the happiness value of not eating dirt is the equivalent of £5. It is so simple and so effective.

I may think it is great, but the results worry liberal economists. This kind of research ultimately shows that the private income needed to compensate for public goods is very, very high. This means that £1 spent on public goods generates much more happiness than £1 spent privately. The evidence shows that public spending makes us all happy and, therefore, makes us all more able to go to work, be productive, and boost the economy. Neo-classical economists (i.e. those currently making policy) don't like this because they like to argue that public spending is bad. But the evidence is there and they can't ignore it. But as Davies so rightly points out, they don't exactly shout about it:
The political ramifications of such a technique have to be carefully concealed by the neo-classical economists currently seeking to introduce it to policy-making. But, arguably, a spectre is haunting liberal economics.
You may find the whole idea of trying to value happiness/unhappiness a bit absurd. And I'd say that is a valid opinion to hold. But read this article and you'll see how Davies grapples with the ontology of happiness and unhappiness and looks at the historical relationship between capitalist markets and mental wellbeing. Then you'll begin to see why some people find it so very important to put a price on happiness.

OR, you could just go the Peanuts-route and simply accept that happiness is a warm blanket.
Happiness is a Warm Blanket :)

21 October 2011

Roo gets a Facelift!

Hello and Happy Friday to all!

If you're a regular reader you'll have noticed that the blog has adopted a new look today. I felt I needed a little refreshing. I've been struggling for the last couple of weeks with giving Roo's a bit more direction. My posts have been getting less and less frequent but that's not for lack of ideas. I've been indecisive on what I really want this to all be about. The original idea was to write about nothing and everything. That sentiment is still there, but it needs some tuning. To be perfectly honest, I just need some sort of structure to stay on track. 
So I've done some thinking.

I had started doing Wednesday's "reading list" of cool stuff I find on the internet. I'm going to hold on to this idea, but deviate a little bit. I'll only give you one article/video/film/blog to look at each week. But I'll also include a more detailed review of it with some of my own opinions thrown in there.
I'll also be doing a weekly food-post. Some of my favourite posts I've done (and some of my most read) are the ones about food. Week to week this is going to vary: things I've cooked, things I've eaten, things I'd like to eat, whatever! Anything food-related to be honest.
My third post of the week will remain a wild-card. Anything random I want to share or rant about. I do so love ranting. Good for the soul. They wont be in any particular order; sometimes I'll do food on a Monday, sometimes it'll be Friday. CRAZY, I know.

So here's what I'm promising:
Three posts a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
One review, one food, one wildcard.
More pictures (I'm terrible at this).

14 October 2011

A Single Earring

You know when you have those days when nothing seems to go right and everything is harder than it ought to be? Well, I've been having that day for the past month. Today seemed to be my absolute breaking point when I lost an earring. This sounds ridiculous, I know. In fact, it doesn't just sound so, it IS ridiculous.

But seriously, few tragedies are worse than losing a single earring, a single glove, a single sock. These things are meant to be pairs! My lost earring was one of my everyday pair. The pair I put on every single morning just after fumbling for my glasses and just before brushing my teeth. Yet today, as I walked home from the grocery, I realised that one lobe was completely bare, its usual decoration unhinged and discarded, lost somewhere between the way-too-shiny-veg aisle and the surly cashier. And I broke. How is my life to continue without two earrings to put on in the morning?

I could be happy, I would be happy, if only I had two earrings to wear every day, more money in my bank account, fluffier pillows on my bed, newer shoes, a trendier coat, more books, better glasses; I could be happy, I would be happy, if only I were stronger, smarter, taller, more attractive.

Then I saw this beautiful film made by a group of Dutch film makers during the 48 Hour Film Project in Utrecht. It's called Page 23. Things don't equate to happiness, or any sort of meaning at all for that matter. Stuff is just stuff and we all kid ourselves into thinking that a pair of earrings to put on in the morning [insert your own equivalent here] makes our lives complete.

"Amazingly beautiful, yet hopelessly impractical"

In the end, I think I'll be ok with a single earring.

5 October 2011

Wednesday Friendsday

This weeks list of things I find on the Internet is friend-themed. (in the loosest sense of the word "themed").

1.) The Democratic Republic of Facebook
We all know friends aren't real unless they are on Facebook. This article is a little reminder that while we may love Facebook, we may spend ridiculous amounts of time allowing it to consume our lives, we may use it as a tool for everything from chatting up that hottie we saw on the train to sending wedding invites. But Facebook doesn't belong to us. It is not ours. We belong to it. Important lesson here!

2.) Magic Brownie Adventure Movie
Have there ever been two better friends in history than Cheech and Chong? I mean, they are the epitome of friendship. Now here is a "film trailer"-come-advert that highlights the significant role of Brownies in friendship (and digestive systems).

3.) New Condoms
I wouldn't want to alienate any part of my audience by appealing only to platonic friends. This one is for the "special friends". It is a tumblr that puts brand slogans on condoms. Now wouldn't you rather have one of these than a JLS face on your rubber?

4.) The Adventures of Tom & Atticus
Nothing compares to the friendship between a man and his dog. Here's a blog about a guy following his dog around a bunch of mountains. It is really sweet and sometimes funny. And when all else fails, cute pictures of a dog.

Happy Wednesday! Go make some friends.

3 October 2011

The Best Country in the World and The Worst Company in the World

If there is one thing that gets me vex it is really bad customer service. Not because I demand perfection and expect to be served like a queen. But because it is SO easy to do very basic things to make your customer happy and SO rare that people even make an effort.

A few days ago I was on my not-so-rare rant about the best country in the world; it's Barbados obviously. Not that I'm biased or anything. There is a long list of reasons why Barbados is so great, but good customer service does not usually appear on that list. In fact, I'm among quite a few Bajans who often get distressed, and frankly, embarrassed, at the level of service in some of the most tourist-visited places. Like the Airport, for starters. It is not that Bajans are a rude people, not traditionally anyway. We used to have a reputation for being warm and welcoming, kind and helpful, funny and good spirited. But more and more I come across cashiers at Super Centre whose only form of communication is grunting, shop clerks in Cave Shepherd who think it is helpful to finish their chat on the phone before doing their job, and my real favourite, taxi drivers who like to tell young ladies that they have got particularly attractive rear ends. Their language tends to be more colourful.

However! During my epic argument about the best country in the world, a Trini (one of those renowned Bajan-haters) conceded on the one point that he got pretty damn good customer service in Barbados. I was floored! And incredibly happy. Maybe there has begun a turn-around on my beautiful island. What's more, the next day I had to ring up the Barbados High Commission in London. I was fully expecting to hold for twenty minutes and then speak to a machine. Wrong! Two rings and the lovely Jackie answered. Not only was she pleasant and articulate, but she was also genuinely helpful. Can't say the same for the US Embassy; service was disgraceful. 

Not the best photo of The Best Country in the World
Batts Rock Beach
So we've got the Best Country decided. Now for the Worst Company - Argos. Ok, this might be an exaggeration. I'm sure there are arms dealers and market traders and soft-drink manufacturers and all sorts of other companies that do much worse things than Argos. It might not be The Worst but it certainly is Terrible. Mercia Garden takes a big load of the blame too as you'll see in a bit. 

Here is the tale of the Terrible experience had by a Friend:
Friend ordered a garden shed online, as one does, from Argos. Friend assumed she was getting an Argos product. Wrong! Argos out-sourced to Mercia Garden. Now the product was just slightly too big for the letter-box, so someone had to be home to collect delivery. Sure. No problem. Friend was given a day for delivery. No time frame; no "we'll come between 10 and 2"; nothing. So good responsible Friend sat at home ALL DAY! No delivery. Customer service department (if we can call it that) tells her, "Oh, we're very sorry. Bit of a mix-up. We'll deliver tomorrow". Fine. Good responsible Friend sat at home ALL DAY! No delivery. Ultimately, FOUR separate delivery dates were set up and still: No delivery. Now, I don't know what you like to do with your time, but Friend and I, we don't think sitting at home waiting on a non-existent delivery is particularly fun or productive. What's worse, the so-called customer service department is less than apologetic and less than helpful in sorting the whole issue out. 

Argos ad deemed misleading
Dear Argos, You Suck.

There's MORE! Friend, being a patient and forgiving and generally awesome person, makes another order from Argos. This time, for next-day delivery. Now, you may have seen all these adverts that Argos has got posted over half of London and ALL over the tele; they claim they can do same-day delivery, within 90 minutes if you're that eager for it. You'd think with the ability to do 90 minute delivery, the next day should be do-able. Wrong! The f-ed it up. Surprise surprise! For more on shit from Argos read this

Maybe one day Argos will surprise me in the way that Barbados has. Until then,I shall not be ordering from Argos. I will not be gracing them with my time and patience. There are a million other places I can shop and now, I will.