Arrest this vile pervert now!

I’m sure you remember Canadian freak-show queen Celine Dion, and her domination of the 1990s power ballad world. And you most likely remember her utterly ridiculous, pomp-musical-rock-tastic career pinnacle, It’s All Coming Back To Me Now:

It’s only just occurred to me, however, that a couple of lines from this song suggest deeply disturbing things about Ms Dion’s past [*]:

There were nights of endless pleasure
It was more than any laws allow

At the time the song came out, heterosexual anal sex had only just been legalised in the UK, so there was much ‘fnarr’-ing among the teenage boy community at this information.

On reflection, our speculations were altogether too tame. Ms Dion isn’t simply claiming that there were nights of endless pleasure that were banned by the laws of any specific jurisdiction – she’s claiming that whatever activities she engaged in were considered illegal by every single code of laws in force in the world at the time she first performed the song.

Anything that was legal in Germany at the time is ruled out, meaning that the activities referred to can’t solely concern consenting adults (unless they involved bodily injury leading to a concrete danger of death). Since bestiality was legal in the state of Washington at the time, that’s out too.

The only laws regulating sexual conduct that exist universally across all societies with codes of laws (much as they may not be applied consistently) are those prohibiting non-consensual sexual activity [**], sex with minors [**], and the consensual infliction of death or severe life-threatening injury.

So therefore, Ms Dion is admitting that the sexual ecstasy she found with her departed-and-possibly-returning partner was either rapey, paedophilic or murderous. Is this really the sort of behaviour we want celebrated in song?

[*] the song, of course, is written by Jim Steinman. I’m assuming in the absence of evidence to the contrary that it’s ghost-written for Ms Dion. Even if not, Ms Dion clearly identifies with and makes no attempt to criticise or distance herself from the character Mr Steinman has created.

[**] at least outside of marriage and subject to certain definitions.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-07-25

  • "the one genuine example of 'political correctness' is the one that stops us from saying 'racist' to describe racism" http://bit.ly/dnL8mD #
  • Yet another entry in the LONG 'reasons to loathe and despise #Singapore' file: http://bit.ly/aORW6Z #
  • Metrics on Times paywall experiment: http://bit.ly/blw5gi – in short, web paywall FAIL, iPad paid app WIN. Or "the Guardian was right" #
  • Crystal-ball-extrapolating: written news articles & blog content to remain free; ever-swishier paid apps to be created… #
  • Great piece from Gary Younge on #torycuts. Irrespective of your ideology, it's simply correct: http://bit.ly/a0GrvG #
  • You can legitimately say "I want less redistribution of wealth and a smaller state", but not "we have to shrink the state", cos it's a lie #
  • Oh, and that one was via @chickyog (bloody 140 limits, etc) #
  • #EDL are the racist ones and #EDF are the nucular ones #mentalnotes #
  • Motorola gives up: http://bit.ly/97e19R #
  • It's weird, normally it's British co's that invent a thing, don't do anything with it, and then other people win at it… #
  • OK, tweeters – anyone (even People With Very Real Concerns About Migration) want to make the case for this? http://dlvr.it/2nRqc #
  • A good Lord these days is hard to find: http://bit.ly/9xUkVv (via @copyrightgirl) #
  • Insane Europhobic myths' Tom Lehrer moment: http://bit.ly/a34ju1 @nosemonkey @jonworth #
  • RT @simontkey: A man is looking for the word that's in between contemporary & context in the dictionary. I have nothing but contempt for him #
  • When my brane isn't busted w/financial advisor and health food data (freelance grr), I'll write a real article on online media economics #
  • I'm #proudofthebbc because, really, FFS – it's aces, and anyone who's ever spent time outside of the UK couldn't fail to notice this #
  • Odd article: http://bit.ly/cHhTBU – apparently BP should compensate people for loss of earnings *whilst also paying their wages* – eh? #
  • I wish people wouldn't eat parmesan-based foodstuffs in the office #smellslikepuke #
  • American tech writers still really don't have a clue about cellular wireless communications, do they? – http://bit.ly/c5Nyu9 #
  • phil_q I reckon 15 smaller than AU, rest bigger (haven't looked it up, but only ones I'm not sure are CA and NL – *think* they're smaller) #
  • A whale of fhale? Is there something noteworthy occurring? Surely everyone in the populated, Anglophone world's still in bed…? #
  • I absolutely 100% salute @cardiffairport's decision to ban sproglets under 10 from their lounge, much as it upset Mrs @alandavies1 #
  • If there was an airline that banned young kids, I'd fly with them every bloody time. Constant screaming = not something of which I'm a fan. #
  • It ought to be illegal *not* to point out that #Scientology is an evil, sinister, stupid, fraudulent cult: http://bit.ly/cLJbK5 #disgrace #
  • One day, we'll all fall over midgets. http://twitpic.com/26y0eg #
  • Advert on my bus says "you can beat alcohol". This is lies: you can't beat alcohol… #
  • On the bus. Not at the trivia. This makes me a grumpy John. #
  • OK, so irony just won: a license to print money isn't, in fact, a license to print money: http://bit.ly/bDvebZ #
  • Dear Mark Thompson: can you fix it so that for only gbp146 a year, foreign residents can get all BBC channels on t'Internet? #proudofthebbc #
  • As a leftie but also an economist: Ireland's debt's been downgraded because rating agencies are concerned about the breakup of the euro #
  • …due to previously not (as) expected Spanish and Greek fails. Not due to the Irish budget cuts. #
  • The UK budget cuts are stoopid, but anyone who cites bond ratings or yields as a reason for or against them is an eejit. #
  • IKEA just won the "wine glass propelled off 1m high desk to floor without smashing" game. IKEA is better than any expensive suppliers… #
  • Bed. Enjoy everything, everyone. Don't say I didn't tell you so. #
  • Good piece from @felixsalmon on wine-snobbery vs wine fun: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE66J12X20100720 #
  • His aside on the way US culture means kids grow up without ever tasting wine, & implications for later life, is particularly interesting. #
  • Goldman Sachs reporting EBITDAF, where 'F' is fines – http://bit.ly/aid6y6 – maybe BP should do the same… #
  • RT @squeakaz HAHAHAHAHA my neighbour has locked himself out. silly old man! This has made me lol for first time is 3 days! #
  • RT @mpesce Have locked myself out of my flat. This is what happens when I rush. :( #
  • Coincidence, or something a little more sinister? #
  • I wonder who's lying here, and why? http://bit.ly/aWhApQ – this sort of thing literally does not happen, at least not in the way described #
  • My best guess is that the posh walkers got some verbal abuse from the chavs and rather daftly had a go back at them, but ICBW. #
  • OK, she's clever & they're a young company, but I don't think Facebook were wise to hire an 8-year-old as their lawyer: http://bit.ly/99H9og #
  • This is bloody good -> RT @TheFirmOnline Editor's blog. The art of distraction over the Pan Am 103 fiasco- http://tinyurl.com/37e8l7m #
  • Wow, babybarista's dad is officially excellent RT @babybarista: Lovely letter in Indy from my Dad Rob the Rubbish! http://bit.ly/dCa5aa #
  • Grad tax advocates: why should a rich lawyer who went to uni pay more tax forever (once fees paid off) than a rich salesman? I don't get it. #
  • Note to Americans: the Megrahi decision was entirely down to the Scotch, and the Dutch courage (gag ruthlessly stolen from elsewhere) #
  • Alternative to grad tax: send fliers to all 6th forms saying "student loan isn't debt, as you don't have to pay it back unless you're rich" #
  • Teenage kicks right through the knight: http://bit.ly/9lulcm #obvious #shouldabeenpeel #
  • Fuck, apparently Peter Andre is British (UK born and passport, just grew up in Aus). Yet another thing we can't shift the blame for… #
  • Good piece; can be shortened to "no, of course not, duh" RT @Heresy_Corner Was it wrong to release Megrahi? http://bit.ly/cy59W3 #
  • Cillit Bang and French's buy Durex: http://bit.ly/9scCbg (via @annieauerbach @DrPetra, but the French's connection has been neglected) #
  • Thank fuck for that: http://bit.ly/bNYTYG #reallystupidideas #
  • You just haven't earned it yet, baby #weddingdisco #
  • I Write Sins Not Tragedies #weddingdisco http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc6vs-l5dkc #
  • I've mentioned Nurofen twice on Twitter in the last 30 mins, despite not having a headache. Well, 3x now. Take that, text analysis bots! #
  • I keep reading refs to this http://yhoo.it/a4qill as "cancelled lesbian pr0n" #shouldprobablyseekhelp @greygirlbeast @adamfishpoet #
  • "[relative I've never met] is on vaginal speculum countdown" – yes, thank you Mr Zuckerberg for bringing that to my life. #fb #fml #
  • Depressing thing: although this is awful and wrong – http://bit.ly/c9n9rV the UK does it already. #yestryingtobecomecitizenofsomewherebetter #
  • Australians: on citizenship revocation, any idea re "it would be contrary to the public interest for you to remain an Australian citizen"? #
  • Not personal deportation concerns, just wondering whether it's a stupid catch-all as in the UK, or whether people's rights are protected… #
  • Been ignoring this one all day because *triggers*, but surely nobody who isn't mad can support the court here? http://tinyurl.com/3xay2zg #
  • I like @CheerfulSheep. At this point, @chrissiem may make jokes about my heritage. That's OK, I've got a new white sweater for her to wear. #
  • Interesting: unless specific politicians or hashtags are mentioned, there's no way to tell between #ukpolitics and #auspolitics in my feed #
  • #deficit #infrastructure #cuts #railfail #refugees "there's no such thing as an 'unelected PM' you ignorant tit" "the Coalition are wankers" #
  • You can see why I struggle, right? #alsothenextPMwillbebornintheUKwhoevertheyare #
  • To the tune of Laid by James, please -> RT @emessen220: The club is alive with the sound of alcohol induced vomiting and bar fights. #
  • OMFG geeklives converge. Everything today features geeklife convergence. #
  • Haha, Mother Ted win: http://twitpic.com/4nsh1 (via @cheerfulsheep) #
  • Peter Hartcher has missed the third element in population growth: deaths. Logically, JG must be planning to kill us all http://bit.ly/alDzdl #
  • Either you believe in open borders, or you're a racist dickhead #harshfacts #
  • Drinking pale ale. Almost wish it was off so I could tweet #palealefale #
  • Amanda Fucking Palmer for the win (musically speaking): http://music.amandapalmer.net #
  • On a Western Line city train. Nothing boganic has occurred so far. Sleeping Indian man behind me remains unbeaten. What gives, people? #
  • RT @ArmyofDave: RT @davegentle: @ArmyofDave how much do cockneys pay for shampoo? pantenne #
  • Still not in fucking Parramatta #stillnotinfuckingparramatta #
  • Best "man goes to a Victorian brothel" sketch ever, from @realdmitchell: http://bit.ly/aopDct #
  • In Melbourne with @chrissiem. Woo! Well, strictly speaking in a bus surrounded by fields somewhere not especially near Geelong. Yay Jetstar! #
  • RT @missellabell: I absolutely just saw one black sheep on its own in a field of white ones. THE OUTCAST. #
  • Rainfuckw #replacebowithfuck #
  • Have utterly failed to see @stephenfry, despite ticket offers for Syd & Mel – sadly we're in the opposite cities from him at all times. :( #
  • RT @5ChinCrack: This winter, I'm going snowfuckarding #replaceBowithfuck #
  • Google image search (safe mode) for 'surprise buttsecks'. Is teh funny. #
  • RT @thetearooms: Saying 'duff' for 'dough' and 'row' for 'rough.' Making Saturday exciting. #

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Shorter this post: don’t BACAI

1) no act that is committed without malicious intent can ever be morally wrong, no matter what its consequences are.

2) if you are harmed by something that wasn’t malicious, you have an absolute moral duty to forgive whoever did it.

3) people who fail to forgive people who’ve non-maliciously harmed them are the worst of all people, and the only people I truly loathe and despise.

Maxtone-Graham-Simpson-Win also OMFG

Sometimes, people judge on outcomes. For example, the excitable Twitter idiot johnb78:

For example: anyone who thinks that Paul Foot is a bad man because James Hanratty turned out guilty is a worthless idiot – because although JH was guilty, he shouldn’t have been hanged on the falisfied evidence that was presented in his case. See also: OJ. I’m not mournful for the rapist and murderer Hanratty, but Paul Foot is absolutely right that he shouldn’t have been convicted.

On the other hand, people sometimes judge on excellence:

When a knight won his spurs, in the stories of old,
He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold;
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand
For God and for valour he rode through the land.

No charger have I, and no sword by my side,
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride,
Though back into storyland giants have fled,
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
‘Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free, with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness the power of the truth.

Update: this post makes no sense. For those struggling to connect it with reality, When A Knight Won His Spurs was written by Joyce Maxtone-Graham, whose nephew wrote many of the best Simpsons episodes.

Why isn’t there a new Bond movie?

Yes, I know MGM (or, more accurately, the latest in a long bunch of shysters to own the rights to the MGM name and to make James Bond movies) are in serious financial trouble.

But if I was in serious financial trouble, and I owned a money tree, but I couldn’t afford to harvest the money tree due to my serious financial trouble, then I’d sell someone the rights to the next harvest of my money tree. Then, I might be able to do the following money tree harvest myself. At a worst case, the money tree’s money crop hasn’t just rotted on the branches.

So I’m genuinely perplexed about the weird machinations that mean we’re not going to get another Bond movie until forever. What incentive have MGM’s management got to not sell the rights to make a new Bond (which will make copious quantities of money, unequivocally) to someone with dollars, rather than sitting around making nothing until they go painfully bust?

I suspect it’s an accounting / US law / principal-agent problem, but would appreciate guidance from anyone who either knows, or can come up with a vaguely sensible reason for MGM’s management to do what they’re currently doing…

Unilever isn’t being racist – but you are

Aussie blogger Melinda Tankard Reist has a rather misguided post on Hindustan Unilever’s controversial face-whitening Facebook app:

Playing on certain racial insecurities by telling dark skinned people that they can never really be beautiful – that’s what Unilever is doing… These products promote ethnocentric stereotypes about the superiority of white people.

Hmm. So in two sentences accusing Unilever of racism, she’s managed two rather irritating, patronising – and indeed, accidentally racist – mistakes.

The first is ‘non-white-European people don’t have opinions or make decisions’. So if Hindustan Unilever comes up with a marketing campaign, it must be because a white man in London told them to.

Great… except for the fact that Unilever’s Asian marketing operation is run by an Indian man in Mumbai, is locally devised and locally executed, and London doesn’t pre-approve campaigns.

The second is ‘the US-derived model of white-European versus everyone else is the only way to view prejudices and stereotypes based on skin colour’. So obviously if people in India are being told that lighter skin is better, that’s so they can be more like Europeans and less like Indians.

Great… except for the fact that the Indian preference for paler skin has absolutely cock-all to do with wanting to be European, and a great deal more to do with the fact that within India, long before the British invasion, the ruling castes have been paler-skinned than the workers (partly because they’re more likely to be of Persian descent, and partly because they don’t spend their time working in the hot sun).

Once you stop viewing non-European cultures through the prism of European race relations, playing on people’s desire to appear lighter is no worse than playing on their desire to appear less spotty or wrinkly. So if people from European cultures object to this campaign any more strongly than they’d object to a campaign for an anti-wrinkle cream, they’re basically telling Indians that they have to follow European values. Which is distinctly Not Cool.

No, the Old Spice campaign hasn’t failed

There seems to be a meme floating around the social marketing world at the moment that the super-notorious Old Spice mass media and viral ad campaign has failed to drive sales, despite grabbing mindshare and winning awards. This seems to be based on a Brandweek article that isn’t available on their website (w00t new media marketing excellence, not), but that has been excerpted here. It says:

[S]ales of the featured product—Red Zone After Hours Body Wash—aren’t necessarily tracking with that consumer appeal: In the 52 weeks ended June 13, sales of the brand have dropped 7 percent according to SymphonyIRI. (That amount excludes those rung up at Walmart.) P&G execs were not available to comment.

SymphonyIRI get their sales data direct from the tills in all major US supermarkets except Walmart (who figure they’re big enough that they’ve got more to lose than to gain from sharing their data with competitors), so it’s pretty reliable. I wish I had access myself – I have done for projects in the past, and damn it’s good, but a subscription costs millions of dollars…

However, even without access to the data, we can easily show that the Brandweek piece is absolutely irrelevant. First, a quote from Forbes last Thursday:

Total sales for Old Spice body wash at supermarkets, drugstores and mass market retailers excluding Wal-Mart were up 16.7% in the 52-week period ending June 13, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm.

In other words, assuming both articles are accurate, a specific sub-brand of Old Spice has fallen in sales, but the overall brand has risen in sales. Since the campaign primarily promotes Old Spice as a master brand (I didn’t even know it was plugging Red Zone After Hours Body Wash, and nor did you), the Brandweek article is somewhere between misled and misleading in its selective data usage.

Even if Forbes has somehow got its numbers wrong, and the Brandweek data is representative of the brand’s overall performance, this still wouldn’t show the campaign had failed. The IRI data covers a 52 week period – it’s comparing Jul 2009-Jun 2010 to Jul 2008-Jun 2009. The interesting comparisons for a breaking campaign (the ads started in February, and the social campaign’s been building since) are week-on-week (wk20 2010 vs wk20 2009) and month-on-month (Jun 2010 vs Jun 2009), not averages for the whole year. If sales fell in the second half of 2009 and were gradually revived this year by the campaign, the 52 week data wouldn’t show this at all.

The most awesome thing about IRI data if you’re a marketing-stats-data-geek (guilty) is that it’s updated daily. So Procter & Gamble and its agency, Wieden & Kennedy, will know exactly, day on day how sales have reacted. They (well, they plus SymphonyIRI, Unilever, Colgate, and their respective marketing agencies) are the only ones currently in a position to say whether the campaign has worked. Until and unless they, or SymphonyIRI, or a naughty leaker working for a company with access to IRI’s database, tell us what the week-on-week comparisons are, we’ve got little idea whether or not the campaign has succeeded.

Well, except that Old Spice had been in decline as a brand for a very long time – so if there has been a 17% rise in 52-week sales as the Forbes piece suggests, then that’s a good indication that the rise in sales since the campaign launched in February is larger still.

Lesson: while everyone wants smug marketers to fail (yes, of course you do), a campaign that captures the public imagination to the degree that Old Spice has is bloody unlikely to fail to drive sales, at the very least in the short term. Relatedly, most people don’t understand data.