Mohammad Al-Ubaydli’s blog

Trip to London

Posted in Books, People / organisations, Places by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on April 9, 2006

I’ve been in London for the last few days, teaching the advanced track of the RSM workshop. Always fun because of the people I get to meet, but also because of the repeated shocks I get from being in London rather than DC.

For example, the London underground always has amusing adverts. On this trip tax advice compay had several adverts about how somethings ought to be left to the experts. Public speaking, for example, whence a picture of President Bush looking confused with a microphone.

I don’t know why but I was momentarily spooked by the poster. Harmless fun and a joke at the expense of the powerful, but being in the USA I have not seen such images. In London it is a common joke. Not that no Americans make such comments, nor that all Brits believe that Bush is stupid, but a mass market joke depends on the masses believing its assumptions. I guess that such adverts that surprise me are part of the signals that make Americans complain about anti-Americanism.

I also found a charming little book called “Is it Just Me Or I Everything Shit?“. It is full of unnecessary swear words and oh-so-English cynicism – but is so funny! And surprisingly informative too. For example, the entry on Alpha Males (“the Marquis de Sade with a flip chart”) includes this reminder of historical origin:

Dominance hierarchies in the animal kingdom were discovered in the 1920s by Norwegian scientist Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe. Studying flocks of hens, he noticed how each member recognised its place above and below its peer; the upper echelons got first dibs at the corn (hence the phrase ‘pecking order’) and peace generally reigned. Clever hens, thought Thorleif Schjeldeup-Ebbe.

Another entry, “Equality of Opportunity”, told me that Michael Young was inventor of the term meritocracy, against which he wrote the satirical book “The Rise of the Meritocracy“. Every now and then I get another glimpse of just how impressive this man must have been, the Open University and the Consumers’ Association being some of his other achievements. And then there is his son, Toby Young, author of one my favourite books, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People“.

Finally, this morning I read a newspaper article (about the shortage of female “facilities” in the House of Lords) and caught the mention of Thomas Crapper, apparently a Victorian water closet engineer. I know, this is the stuff of primary school playground jokes. But I found very funny after five hours of sleep. Perhaps I’ll pen an apology tomorrow but for now I am unrepentant.


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