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Journal of Distraction - by Michael Kelly

Week 4 - Wednesday

Aiieeee! Aaaaargh! Nooo! Betrayed, betrayed! Perfidy! All is lost, all hope is dead.

I found a website for Mellerware, the makers of my beloved Mellerware 84300 bread-making machine, the possible winner of my marriage competition whose virtues I have been extolling (see Monday and Sunday). I wish I had died yesterday, for now I find I must take a sledgehammer to my beloved.

Look at it:

(Will open in a new window)

Mission! Vision! Corporate Values! All in lower-case! My eyes, my eyes! I must pluck them out, they are soiled by the horror. It's all right for Jeremiah to use lower-case, he's a poet, and besides the Germans cut off his caps-shift fingers during the war, but why do all corporate PR men think they're e.e. cummings? An excessive interest in typography is the last refuge of a shyster.

'Trends for life'! For shame. Why, Mellerware, why? You didn't need that. You had a product people loved, that would have spread by word of mouth, a wondrous machine that heralded the dawn of a new millennium, that people would have fought for, killed for, died for. I myself would have been happy to abandon all I have and humbly take to the roads spreading the good news to all men of the coming of the Mellerware 84300. Jeremiah encouraged me to get the British concession for it, and go round selling it door-to-door; although I think he just wants me out of his hair.

I don't blame Mellerware. They were betrayed, innocents led astray, I have to believe that. Poor white-haired old Giuseppe Mellerware, humble Florentine craftsman, pursuing his honourable trade as his fathers have before him, he cannot have been a party to this abomination. His son, perhaps... perhaps the new generation have abandoned the old ways. Perhaps his heir, once pampered and dandled fondly on old Giuseppe's knee, has taken to drugs and gambling and consorting with PR men... He sneers at his father's shy and retiring ways, his humble belief that a good workman need not boast of his wares... 'Move with the times, pop'... Young Gino thinks only of Ferraris and cocaine and whores... Sadly his father admits that he is old and does not understand the needs of modern commerce, but inwardly he winces and dies a little when he sees the website his son's hyped-up jive-talking friends have made... lower-case type! The proud old man writhes with shame. The neighbours will think he is too ignorant to spell, and cannot afford to hire someone who can. Even in the poorest times they always paid for capital letters on their sign even if meant going without food. His own father would have whipped him if he had put out a handbill like that. There is only one thing for it... tears creasing his dusty but noble old cheeks, he inserts his head into the Mellerware 84300, fruit of his years of patient toil, his real child which will never betray him, and switches it on... Three hours later, his erring son comes home to find his father has a loaf for a head... 'This way, I will not be hissed at in the streets,' he says with dignity.

The tragedy... the 84300 isn't even listed there, it must have been withdrawn. Too beautiful for this world. There's a breadmaker, but it looks a bit flash and the buttons are on the front rather than on the top like the 84300. I regard that with deep suspicion and cannot vouch for it. Still, plainly they haven't lost their touch. I have to say that even to a prematurely tweedy fuck like me some of their products look very cool, in a weird modern 'at all costs a kettle should not look like a kettle' way. Those who like that should check it out. But read the copy for the 'Executive Range': 'A must have in any trendy kitchen. The kettle makes a statement of moving with the times', 'Mellerware's mission of introducing new design trends... The kettle is geared up with the following features', 'The Solaris Kettle' (which gives you visions of dead loved ones, like that film) 'has reinvented itself', 'New generation... the kettle makes a sophisticated design statement', 'fully integrated', 'state-of-the-art', 'multifunctional', 'Modernise your life with a toaster with the following features'...actually by current standards it's not quite as bad as some, and the descriptions of the non-executive range are down-to-earth and humble. And I must admit a lot of the product designs are bloody ace. But the front page still gives me the creeping horrors and I feel outrage that a family of creative geniuses like the Mellerware clan should have had to prostitute themselves in that way and waste money hiring someone with the shite-talking gene to write that stuff. 'We have our ear on the market to understand consumers' needs... the introduction of innovations... dynamic management team... Our organisation is based on the team spirit by which we live. Our philosophy is traditional but paired with innovations and the impact of modern design... Mellerware has chosen a new claim that perfectly summarises what the brand stands for: Mellerware's "Trends for life" will in future give proof that the brand is more than a name in the kitchen.' Mission, vision, philosophy, gurrrrg, blerr, groo.

I wish someone would let me be a PR man, because obviously no-one has a clue. If I had a company I would do my own. Something like this is all you really need:

(Will also open in a new window and contains swearing)

You might think I'm kidding, but I swear to God I would really prefer that. The book distribution thing - the bomb-threat people - they wrote back, by the way, 'intrigued by your marketing techniques' - I'm still trying to persuade them to handle me, even though I already have someone as good or better I can go with, simply because their website was so down-to-earth and human and free of values bollocks. (Alas, though, they have now disappointed me by coming out with some company-profile potatoes-not-tobacco nonsense). Because it was such a blessed relief after some of the ones I'd had to deal with. And, Jesus, you should have seen the corporate websites of some of the printers I was looking at. Horrible, horrible, PR man vernacular, every cliche imaginable. Pictures of smiling children all over the place. I'm looking to hire a printer, not Coco the fucking Clown. I hate children, they're too young to buy books. What have children got to do with anything? They're the future, man, and we're a responsible corporation and... Fuck off, maybe your children are the future, you corporate whores, my children will live lives of ignominious desperation in a suburban wasteland somewhere and will be genetically incapable of smiling. I've got to find... I should do a survey, I bet there's an arms company website somewhere with pictures of smiling children flying kites. I bet even people who make cluster-bombs trot out a picture of some gap-toothed little cretin frolicking in the sun... Those kids are all retards, clapping their hands with glee... I was a solemn and glowering child who didn't photograph well, a beetle-browed little bastard in a polo-neck and a puddingbowl haircut, I hate them.

Is it just me? Is it just me that would really prefer 'Buy a toaster or fuck off'? Isn't mission-vision-values revolting to all sensitive souls? Do they really not understand that or do I not understand? Isn't it, to try to analyse the revulsion, a reprehensible debasement of good words and concepts? Hand on heart, if you had the choice between buying from my website and something like the Mellerware one, and it was the exact same toaster, at the exact same price, which would you choose? How about if it was a bit cheaper on mine, because I hadn't pissed money away on website design and soothing words? How about if my site was by some toaster genius just starting out in the world, and the other was owned by some faceless corporation with a virtual monopoly, who would you buy from?

You would probably buy from the tarty site full of revolting corporate blah. Why? Because a certain style, a certain protective colouration every large beast in the jungle has adopted, has come to signify professionalism and reliability.

But if you'd been around in the Victorian era, something like this or this (new windows) was where it was at. And you would have been looking for the products advertised by the cute little kids in sailor suits and frocks, or that the Times had discreetly endorsed. And anyone who tried to buck the trend and say, 'Sod it, I'm not giving the editor of the Times his rake-off any more, and I'm not having any more ads with girls tied with bows or sooty-nosed urchins' would have gone bankrupt - or, I suppose, if the time was right for a change, made a fortune.

And five or ten years from now, I hope... Wait, though, if that's all it is, a fashion, a convention, what am I so worked up about? Maybe it is just me after all. Maybe the world isn't out of joint but I am. Maybe I'm out of synch. Maybe that's been my disease all along. Maybe I have some... syndrome, call it Anachronistic Aesthetic Irritability. Fads and fashions and conventions and styles which fifteen years from now will strike every bugger as laughable and twee and naff, strike me that way now. As though I'm from a different time, some aesthetically perfect far future or distant past - which might explain my handsomeness.

But conversely, the TV programmes taking the piss out of 1973 leave me cold, and I'd feel less aesthetically affronted living in the Victorian age than I do now. But why? Because their uglinesses and absurdities strike me as right for them, for then, delightfully period. Oh, but that could be the key - why don't I apply that to now? This could be how I finally learn to fit in. Why don't I start pretending I'm just visiting this era? Why don't I start finding things delightfully 2006? Oh, I'm on to something here. Thanks for listening, this has been very helpful, I think I'm on the verge of a breakthrough. In Isak Dinesen's 'Carnival', set in 1925, they decide to pretend they're people in 2025 playing at being people in 1925 - a sort of 'come as you are only more so' party. That's what I can do, be like everyone else but ironically, in inverted commas. Pretend I'm a time-traveller. (I need a police-box. Ooh! Ooh! Yes! This could be a way to tap into the 'lonely god' coolness they've set up for the new sexy Dr. Who. He gets plenty. 'On the Dalek homeworld they call me The Coming Storm'. I want to say that to R. ...Lonely god? He's a happy god surrounded by totty if you ask me.)

No, seriously, I have to do this, this is a way to stop myself becoming a real curmudgeon and pain in the arse to everyone. Or even better, it may be a new and exciting way to annoy people. Henceforth my persona will be that of a kindly and benevolent anthropologist from a different time. I will find everything delightful and charming and so right for now. 'Ah! A mission statement! How I've longed to see one of those. I know all about them... fascinating tribal ritual... these are the charmed inscriptions you attach to your commercial documents, yes? Thought to bring success to your enterprises... heavy juju... Oh! An I-pod! Touching, how you all wet your pants over them. How endearingly unsophisticated you were... and you don't believe in locking up criminals, do you? How quaint, how 2006... no, really, it suits you... And you all believe in The Market, don't you?... That was your great god, nothing it couldn't do... the cruel sacrifices you enacted to it... thought to bring prosperity to all if you obeyed its commands without question... touching faith, fascinating to see... And is it true you knock down beautiful old buildings and relocate your businesses to hideous out-of-town jerry-built estates? (nb this is pretty much what's going to happen at our place) And you chop down trees and concrete over the countryside... But of course the cult of anti-beauty was at its zenith now, wasn't it?

'And all so quick to anger, everyone seeing a disagreement as a personal insult, an attack on your way of life... And you're all so obsessed with politics as the key to human happiness... but of course this was in the days before the discovery of Transcendental Masturbation...'

Speaking of which, bed.

(Last day tomorrow, hooray!)

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