Monday, January 31, 2011

American Vacation?

I was chatting with my brother at Christmas and discussed how much holidays people usually had in the States and I was shocked. Typically, the average hard-working American is entitled to two weeks vacation. This is compared to an average of four in the UK.

Not only do we Brits get substantial holidays (plus sick leave and usually even special leave for family emergencies), but we also get bank holidays off. In the US, only a select few employees get those days off (banks and government agencies, for example). For everyone else, it's business as usual.

Plus - and here's the worst bit - if you work part time you are not automatically entitled to any annual leave. Not pro rata, not one bit.

According to a 2007 report by CEPR, "...the United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation or holidays. As a result, 1 in 4 U.S. workers do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays. The lack of paid vacation and paid holidays in the U.S. is particularly acute for lower-wage and part-time workers, and for employees of small businesses."

Does this seem fair? How can one of the major world powers get away with treating its citizens like this?
One could argue that working its people so hard is what has kept America on top, but given its current economic woes I'm not convinced. The reality, I suspect, is that politicians in the US have their hands tied in terms of introducing any kind of legislation that would make paid annual leave compulsory. They are obliged to keep those companies investing billions of dollars in the American economy happy, and forcing them to give paid leave to employees would not go down very well with big business.

The idea that giving people more time off would lead to lower productivity and effectiveness (which is, presumably the fear of US companies) is daft. In fact, I suspect productivity would increase as people become more energised with their time off. At the very worst, things would stay the same - but at least people would be just that little bit happier with their lives.

Time off is one of those things I think we should hold sacred in a civilised society. It gives us a chance to switch off, unwind, smell the roses and just 'be'. While work helps to define us and gives structure and meaning to our lives it's only a part of who we are. We are also defined by our relationships - our family and friends. If we work all the hours God sends and don't get to spend any time with those we love and care about - well, what's the point?

Not only that, but time to ourselves is also vitally important. A chance to walk in the woods or stroll along an empty beach alone gives us a chance to reflect and ponder the bigger issues, to clear the cobwebs from the mind and dream a little.

Isn't that what being human is about? Isn't that one of the things that separates us from the animals?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Greatest Disappointment In Cinematic History

Did you realise that all three Star Wars prequel films are complete rubbish and merely a cynical attempt at milking as much money as possible out of a much-loved and respected franchise?

I didn't ... until I saw Red Letter Media's scathing, but very accurate, analysis of the films (see below). NB: Contains swearing and weird, unnecessary references to kidnapping ... you kinda have to skip over those bits.

Painful though it is to admit ... we were all duped.

I remember as a young adult coming out of the cinema after seeing The Phantom Menace and feeling confused. I think that, deep down, I knew I'd just seen a pile of crap - but because it was, y'know, Star Wars - well, it couldn't be true. I wanted to like Phantom so much that I wouldn't accept that it was a pile of turd.

What is embarrassing is that, being a film and media student, I should have spotted the glaring errors, plot holes, character inconsistencies and failure to follow normal film grammar.

I have every intention of sitting down with JKY one day and watching Episodes 4, 5 and 6 with him. I look forward to that, cos I think he'll really enjoy them. I don't know if I could ever bring myself to letting him watch the first three, though.

I suppose I could just point out every flaw and plot-hole along the way.

I'm sure he'd enjoy that....

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I thought I might as well exploit my blog to sell our car. There's no point spending loads of money advertising it if I can make people aware for free - makes sense, doesn't it?

So, in case you or anyone you know is interested, here are the specs:

2003 (53) Skoda Fabia 5-door Hatchback 1.2 HTP 12v (64bhp) Petrol Classic

PAS, Air Con, Airbags, ABS, Immobiliser, Single CD Player / Radio, Adjustable steering wheel, Trip Computer, Electric Front Windows, Remote Central Locking, Height-adjustable driver's seat, Silver

6 months MOT

Only 79,000 miles

Full Service History

This car has had one owner since new. It has the usual signs of wear and tear for a car this age. Notable bumps are on the boot door and with a scuff on the nearside rear bumber.

The rear wipe screenwasher does not work but this is easily fixed.

A great, fun car to drive that's solid, reliable and cheap to run.

This really is a great car, which has served us well for over seven years. We're sad to see it go but need the cash and can't really justify running two cars considering where we live. Oh yeah, and it's bad for the environment.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What's your takeaway pseudonym?

When I last went to Domino's Pizza, as usual I offered my name after giving my order so they could call me up when the cholesterol-infused discs of dough were ready for collection.

I have decided I need a cool name to give with my order, rather than my own which, frankly, isn't particularly cool. The idea is that when the spotty teenager behind the counter announces my food is ready, fellow grease-munchers will be struck with fear and admiration at my name. I will then stride out of the fast-food establishment in slow-mo like in some kind of John Woo film.

Here are a few examples of what it could be:
- Nighthawk
- Master Blaster
- Locutus
- Dreadlock
- Captain Sinister
- The Rock
- Asbo
- Raptor Man

Of course, I'd probably need an outfit to go with my super new cool name - but perhaps that's going a bit too far...