Tag Archives: Starbucks

Janet Street-Porter is wrong; Amazon, Google, Starbucks, Jimmy Carr are right

"Kiss my ass" - the cry of bad law-makers

The English legal system and British government out grazing

Am I alone in wondering why Starbucks is getting so much stick about not paying its taxes in the UK?

And Google. And Amazon. And (getting surprisingly less stick) Vodafone.

Yesterday, Janet Street-Porter (whom I rate vary highly) wrote a piece for The Independent headlined GOOGLE, AMAZON, VODAFONE AND STARBUCKS MIGHT NOT BE BREAKING LAWS. BUT THEY DESERVE TO BE PUNISHED. 

Why?

Why should anyone or any company be punished for not breaking any laws? Should you be punished for not breaking the law? Should I be punished for not breaking the law?

Admittedly, Starbucks’ PR is utter shit.

Saying they will, out of the goodness of their corporate heart,  pay a flat sum of £20 million totally unrelated to any percentage of their profits is simply shooting themselves in their very large, clown-like feet.

But, if the law allows them to do what they have been doing – paying only 1% of their UK profits in tax over the last 14 years – then do not blame Starbucks, blame the British government, blame Parliament and blame the taxman.

If the law is not what the government and the public want, then change the law. And do not change it retrospectively.

If I park my car outside a house and the government or local council does not want me to do that, then paint a double yellow line on the road. Don’t paint a double yellow line on the road and then fine me for parking illegally on the road before it had a double yellow line and when parking there was perfectly legal.

Jimmy Carr got crucified in the same way.

His accountant sorted out his tax perfectly legally and in the most efficient way for Jimmy… and then the government complained he was wrong in acting perfectly legally…

If the law is an ass, then don’t blame the people or companies who ride the ass. Don’t ask people to kiss the English legal system’s ass. Change the law.

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Filed under Legal system, Morals, Tax

The Poster Menace who stalks the streets of the Edinburgh Fringe

(This piece was also published by the Huffington Post)

The Poster Menace? Or is it Keyser Söze?

“They’re just weird posters that people look at. They read them and they don’t make sense. I really do it just to see what the reaction is. Barry Humphries used to do things like leave a cooked chicken in a wastepaper bin by a bus stop. He would get on the bus one stop further back, get off the bus, pick the chicken up and start to eat it in front of people. And he did that just to see the reaction.”

Thus spake The Poster Menace.

“So I can’t really name you?” I asked The Poster Menace when I met him this week.

It’s all in the wording

“Really, I would prefer you didn’t.”

“You’re like Banksy.”

“But without the money.”

“It’s OK to photograph you?”

“Yes.”

“What’s your favourite poster?”

“A few years ago,” he told me, “I did a poster that was blank apart from the words:

SIGN HERE IF YOU WANT THIS POSTER REMOVED

“The bottom half of the poster had about fifty spaces for signatures. I left it up for about 20 minutes – with a pen tied to a piece of string – and, when I came back, every single box was signed.”

“And you felt you’d succeeded there”

“Yes.”

The Poster Menace lives in Derbyshire

A couple of years ago, I picked up a book of his posters.

“So when did you start doing your posters?” I asked him.

About five years ago.”

“Why?”

“My father died of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos. He was a builder and he’d been moving asbestos sheeting. So, to raise money, it was either run a marathon or do these posters.

“I print the posters. I stick them up. I take photographs. And then I publish the photographs in a book which I sell and that money goes to a cancer charity. There have been two books so far, because you have to build up. It takes me maybe two years to get enough photos.”

“So there should be another one due next year?”

“That’s right.”

“So are you a frustrated photographer/comedian?”

“A stand up? No, no. But I’ve got a website with what I would consider serious photographs.”

“And where do you put the posters up? On private property?”

“All over, but not private property. I might do it somewhere in the Gilded Balloon, but I don’t go into people’s houses.”

Public service messages are a speciality

“Starbucks?” I asked.

“I have been known to do that.”

“Did they take this kindly?”

“Well, I put this poster up which basically said

IS YOUR LIFE POINTLESS?

ARE YOU SICK OF EVERYTHING?

DO YOU WANT TO END IT ALL?

WHY DON’T YOU COME IN AND HAVE A CAPPUCCINO?

“I do like Starbucks coffee, but I don’t think the poster fitted in with their corporate strategy. I put it up at the entrance and I saw several of the customers reacting to it in quite a positive way, but the manager didn’t think it was as hilarious as they did. He immediately tore it down and went round asking people at the tables if they’d seen anyone put it up. He asked me. I said I’ve no idea.”

“You said the punters reacted in a positive way. Given this was actually encouraging them to commit suicide, what would a positive way be?”

“What I generally find with my posters is that people either photograph them or, increasingly, they nick ‘em. That’s a problem as I’m trying to photograph people looking at them.”

Some of the 50+ posters for 2012

“How many posters are you thinking of putting up in Edinburgh this year?”

“Around fifty different ones. I see things over the course of the year which give me ideas and I print them up for use at the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“That’s good quality paper,” I said, feeling a couple.

“It’s 180 gm.”

“That’s better than most Fringe show posters. Almost card.”

“I use good quality paper to get a good picture quality,” the Poster Menace told me. “and also A4 paper is quite difficult to put up quickly because it flaps about. Good quality paper is easier to put up. In the early days, I used to try and put them up really surreptitiously, Ninja-like. But, in the end, I decided to just go and stick them up in full view of everyone. In Edinburgh at this time of year, sticking a poster up is expected of everyone. I am going to attach a cheese-grater to this one,” he told me.

I looked at the poster. It said:

DIY TATTOO REMOVAL

And, when I looked up – Phoopph! – He was gone. Like Keyser Söze.

Later, The poster Menace e-mailed me this photo he had taken in an Edinburgh street of two passers-by:

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour

“How to Produce, Perform and Write an Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Show”

How many editions do books come in?

I must have coughed myself awake last night, because I remember I had a dream… I only remember my dreams if I wake up during one.

Yesterday evening, I had a meal at an Italian restaurant owned by Iranians in Esher with Fred Finn, the Guinness record-holder as the world’s most travelled person. He told me that his author father was called Fred Finn too and he came from a line of 17 Fred Finns. He also told me the President of Turkmenistan recently visited the Ukraine.  I went to Turkmenistan in 1995. An interesting place.

Last night, in my dream, comedian Ian Fox told me that he, too, had visited Turkmenistan. That was in my dream. In reality, I do not think Ian Fox has visited Turkmenistan, but he knows a lot about Edinburgh.

I am obsessed with places like Turkmenistan. Comedians are currently starting their annual obsession with the Edinburgh Fringe, because the ‘cheap’ entry deadline for the festival is in two days time.

Ian Fox is more than just a comedian – he is a comedian, author, blogger, professional photographer and even, last year, a successful last-minute, thrown-in-at-the-deep-end sound supervisor for the Malcolm Hardee Awards at the Fringe.

Ian has produced and performed in fourteen Fringe shows over the last nine years -  which is why he can justifiably title his book How to Produce, Perform and Write an Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Show. In our new, more complicated publishing world, it comes as a paperback, in a Kindle edition and as an eBook.

So, I asked him yesterday afternoon, why a book in any form? And why by him?

“In addition to my own shows,” Ian told me, “I always make a point of asking how others people’s show are going and I end up learning stuff from others. The book wasn’t my idea – a couple of people suggested that I should write it. I usually get comics asking me Fringe questions in gigs the rest of the year. Writing it down – all my advice and what I’ve learned myself – seemed like a good idea.”

The things which he himself surprisingly first learnt by going up to the Fringe were “from a business point of view VAT and the surprise of discovering you have to pay it on your ticket money. And, from a personal viewpoint, how different people react to the stress and pressure of doing a show each day for almost four weeks. I’ve seen some super egos appearing from people who’ve started to believe their own press.”

But, I asked him, isn’t the Fringe so full of competition and rip-off venues, so chaotic and such a bottomless money pit that it’s not worth performing there at all?

“Competition is not really a problem,” was his surprising answer, “Rip-off venues are an issue but incompetence is usually a much bigger issue, both in the people managing the venue and the temporary staff doing the day-to-day running of the place. But I personally think things of beauty arise from chaos.”

The alternative, I suggested, is losing less money doing a show as part of the PBH Free Fringe or the Laughing Horse Free Festival.

“Well, some of the free shows are surprisingly lucrative,” Ian says, “and, if you’re sensible with the money you put up-front  then I think you can turn a profit. I reckon there’s advice in my book to save a new performer at least £300.”

But why should people need to buy a book? Isn’t it obvious what to do even if you are going to the Fringe for the first time?

“Some of it is,” says Ian, “But some of it you only learn by doing it. In March, you’re usually too exited or confused by the small print to know what it all means. In October, when you get your final figures, you discover what it all means and wish you’d had a better understanding of how it worked before you invested your money. Plus the official stuff from the Fringe Office, is – How can I explain this? – ‘official’. There is more of a street-wise approach to my way of doing things.”

Also recently published was Mark Fisher’s book The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: How to Make Your Show A Success (which I blogged about here).

How are the two books different?

“Mark’s a theatre critic, I’m a comedian,” Ian explains. “We both have different experiences of the Fringe. His version probably doesn’t include his flatmates going mental and committing assault with a deadly weapon or fist fights with drama students. My book has my own stories in it, aside from one or two anecdotes I included just because they were funny – so it’s unique to me. It’s got a behind-the-scenes element to it that the people who aren’t performers enjoy reading as well.”

Comedian Ashley Frieze is credited as co-author of Ian’s book.

“He edited it,” explains Ian, “and he was a good sounding board for ideas. Plus he added a couple of sections here and there and reminded me of stuff I’d forgotten. The thing he did most was leave comments in the margins saying: Yeah, you probably should NOT mention that! in the true story sections of the book. I’m at that point now where I’ve pretty much got to work with someone or I just don’t do anything other than watch old films I’ve seen loads of time before.”

Ian’s own show at the Edinburgh Fringe this August is going to be “about photos and stories. Similar to last time… in fact, if I don’t get some writing done soon, it might be really similar to last year’s show.”

And is there another Ian Fox book on the horizon?

“I’m hoping the next one is going to be ‘real’ book,” Ian says. “I have a super secret project I’m shopping around, but if that doesn’t pan out I’ll probably do some more erotic fiction written under the pen name Panther Stevens. Starbucks have started asking for your name when you order a drink… I think people should tell them their name is Anus Sandwich.”

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Filed under Books, Comedy, Theatre