MaV-Eric in Davos

Do you find you never have enough time on your hands? I am always busy, especially now that credit is crunchier than burnt toast with a topping of unbuttered peanuts from a jar that had been inappropriately labelled as crunchy peanut butter. As part of my personal cutbacks, I have had to insource all manner of menial jobs, and had to let go of the Polish Doctor who used to wash my car and the Professor of Ancient History from Budapest who previously hoovered my carpet. That is a little bit of an exaggeration, the car washing and carpet-hoovering have only been un-outsourced, as I have yet to find to fully insource them by doing them myself. I scarcely have time, as I am already so darned busy with other critical activities like writing this blog and implementing my many other economy-beating plans. This week, for example, I purchased two televisions. This will both save money and time spent on going out. Not only will that save me money on non-essentials like going to the cinema, but it will save me the time and cost involved in walking the half a mile to get there. Just think of the reduced expenditure on shoe leather. I can also save on bread as I will burn less calories by spending more time on the sofa. As an accountant who likes to keep up to date with best practice from top CFOs around the globe, I intend to realize, in my own ledgers, all the future gains from reduced cinema, shoe and bread expenditure immediately, whilst thanks to the improving reliability of modern technology I fully intend to spread the cost of the televisions over the next ten years. Credit being what it currently is, I still had to find the cash for the televisions straight away, but you have to spend to save the economy, so it made sense to me. Best of all, I made an arbitrary decision to upwardly revise my forecast of future trips to the cinema. My previous cinema-visitation policy of “only if it’s with a sexually available female” was replaced with a substitute assumption of “must see every ‘must-see’ Hollywood blockbuster”. This generated a 400,000% increase in the number of predicted cinema visits. Because the televisions enable me to cut this much greater number of visits all the way back down to zero, the savings on shoes, bread and cinema tickets will be far higher. This approach has been so effective at saving me money, I could afford to buy two televisions instead of just one. To increase the benefits even more, I am thinking of revising my forecast of would-have-been cinema visits once more, this time based on the assumption that I also would have seen every foreign language film put on general release and every movie featuring either Seth Rogan or Simon Pegg. I calculated that not going to foreign language films that I would not have gone to anyway will reduce my shoe and bread costs by another 0.00062%, whilst not seeing any of the Rogan or Pegg films slated to be released this year will save me about 1,400 hours of otherwise wasted time.

The two-TV plan is not the only scheme I have been working on this week. Everybody knows the world makes too much junk. The lending crisis will prevent many people from upgrading their house, but cuts in tax and massive going-out-of-business sales will leave many bargain-hunters unsure where to put all the new junk they will now accumulate. They could save time and just have the new junk delivered directly to the nearest tip, but that would remove the fun in breaking it first. Putting the junk in storage is expensive, and not a good investment. So I devised a little home enterprise to capitalize on the demand. I planned to offer allocated space in my loft, for a fraction of the price charged by professional self-storage firms. Returning from the DIY store with a new stapladder, I ventured into the roofspace to see how much space could be rented out. This was the first time I had ever been up there, what with being so busy directing the Croatian Doctor of Jurisprudence who remodelled my garden (you really cannot trust these people to do the work unsupervised). I found to my dismay that in my loft there was no space available. Instead of the bare beams and scraggy insulation I had expected, I was devastated to find a modern and well-equipped research laboratory. Pouring through the meticulous notes about the experiments that had been performed there, I found detailed descriptions of a systematic attempt to clone human life. I surmised that Bovis Homes were looking to diversify. As well as making row after row of identical homes for people to live in, they also intended to make row after row of identical people to live in them. Whilst appalled at Bovis’ cynical attempts to drive up demand and house prices, and disappointed that my roofspace storage scheme would come to nothing, I nevertheless spied a new opportunity to save myself valuable time. I called over the lady who does my ironing, formerly the Senior Research Fellow in Genetics at the University of Bratislava, and asked her to assist in some of my own experiments.

Needless to say, we both worked long into the evening. My ironing lady exploited the scarcity of good genetic scientists living in my neighbourhood, and for her trouble she charged me double the going rate for a five kilo bag of mixed laundry. However, it was a good investment, as by the end of the day we had put twenty miniature copies of me into the rapid maturation chambers we built that afternoon. Then it was time for a well earned night of rest. Next morning I eagerly scampered up to the lab to see how the clones were coming along. Fishing them out of the specially-concocted soup of vitamins, egg whites and ProVitaLift anti-wrinkle & firming moisturizer, I was rather disappointed with the results. This was not an army of superhumans fit to seize power and dominate the world’s destiny for all eternity. They were not even very good copies of me, as they each exhibited their own characteristics. Nevertheless, they were mine, or me, or something similar to me at least, and I resolved them to teach them everything I knew, as if they were my own children. I hence sat them down, switched on the telly, and turned the channel to BBC News 24.

One of the more promising clones was labelled #5 in batch M, sample A. Christening himself MaV-Eric, he had a forceful personality and a strong inclination to take the initiative. Having decided that four hours was enough time spent watching the news, I was about to order him downstairs to do the washing-up, but before I could do so he jumped up and announced that he was going to go to Davos to sort out the world’s economic malaise. Perhaps I should have rotated the television channels a little more often, as obviously MaV-Eric had been stirred up by the regular updates about what was happening at the World Economic Forum. Naturally I was against his going, as there was a baking dish with three day old lasagne burnt on to it soaking in the sink, and I had recently had to part ways with the dear old former Soviet rocket scientist who used to do my dishes. However, there was no stopping MaV-Eric and he bounded out of the door, intent on getting to Davos and putting the world’s economy to rights. Whilst anxious about what mischief my clone might get into, I consoled myself with the thought that if he did fix the world’s economy, I could rehire my various Eastern European helpers and get my life back on track. Meanwhile I ordered another clone to get on with the dishes.

Since MaV-Eric left for Davos, he has been sending me regular texts and email updates of what has been happening at the World Economic Forum. As I am far too busy to write this blog, I thought it best to just pass on his highlights:

Off to a bad start. Confused Davos, Swiss ski resort that hosts the World Economic Forum, with Davros, nemesis of Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. Found Davros in a retirement village just outside of Weston-super-Mare. Took the whole day to hitch-hike there. Not a total waste, as Davros had some interesting ideas about how to run the world differently (amusingly, he always insists on saying ‘rule’ the world differently). He has also made some real scientific breakthroughs in the field of electric transport, having replaced his own legs with wheels that run for ever, create no pollution, and rather marvelously still allow him to get up and down stairs. He offered to make similar modifications to me but I said I wanted to experience my body a little longer before I start to make any changes, which he was initially angry about. He sulked a little while but soon brightened up and agreed to go with me to Davos so he can chip in with his ideas on how to run/rule the world. He has some kind of electric rocket ship so we should be there in a jiffy.

Very disappointing. It took four hours for Davros to climb up the stairs to the rocketship he keeps in his back garden. I asked why he had not installed a Stannah stairlift but he insisted his Dalek wheels were much better for the job. When we finally climbed into the cabin, we found the battery was flat. We’ve just called a cab and are going to travel by Eurostar instead. Davros was deeply embarrassed by the experience and lost his temper at one point, blaming it all on somebody he described as “that nitwit from Gallifrey”. Luckily for me, he was so ashamed that he offered to pay both our fares.

Finally made it to Davos. Met some interesting people on the overnight train from Paris. There was a partner from a law firm called Clifford Chance, an accountant from some business called PwC and the Chief Exec of some oil company called Shell. They said they have all been before and that we should have arranged somewhere to stay long ago, as every hotel would be booked out by now. I said that I still had hope – their predictions had proven wrong in the past. They didn’t find that at all funny and refused to talk to me afterwards. In the end there was nothing to worry about, as the hotels had a lot of last-minute cancellations, mostly from ex-bankers.

Went to listen to what Vladimir Putin had to say, but wasn’t impressed. It seems that the communists have always known about the dangers of the free market which is why they don’t have one and they invested in lots of nukes instead. Now nobody has the money to buy Russian raw materials any more, which they find annoying as they’ve got lots of them and not much of anything else (except the nukes). Davros kept nodding his head and muttering to himself in approving tones, as did the journalists from the Russian news agencies, so Putin had a few sympathizers in the room at least. Went up to Putin after he finished, to ask him what impact the downturn was having on sales of his video, “Let’s Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin.” I started off by aiming a comical ‘judo chop’ at him, but his bodyguards misinterpreted the situation and bundled me to the floor whilst Putin ran from the room, frightened and screaming like a little girl. God knows what that big scaredy cat Putin would do if somebody really launched a serious attack at him, like that guy who threw his shoes at Bush or the fellow who landed an egg on Prescott. Putin would probably have burst into tears. Fortunately Davros had some cunning stun weapon and he knocked the bodyguards all unconscious so we could make a hasty escape.

Just seen Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, and he wasn’t much better than Putin. Davros didn’t like him and called him ‘Who’ Jiabao, saying he was an alien overlord who had come to Earth to turn us all into mindless drones. Davros also complained that Wen always snubbed him at the alien megalomaniac parties they both got invited too. According to the Chinese Premier, the problems of the world all stem from the lack of self-discipline in Western banks. Presumably to have disciplined banks, they must be run by political appointees, accountable to the government, instead of businessmen, accountable to the bank’s owners. He must be glad that the West seems to be coming around to his way of thinking, by taking taxpayers money and nationalizing the banking industry. I shouted a question about whether Chinese self-discipline also extended to reducing lead paint for children’s toys and melamine in milk. He pretended not to understand but at least I got a giggle out of Davros.

Out in a swanky nightclub. Davros is literally doing a spin on the dancefloor – he dances like he’s a big dodgem but the girls don’t seem to mind him going “bumper to bumper” if you know what I mean. But then I suppose Angela Merkel doesn’t get much action these days, and Davros’ dancing is a lot less creepy than having George W. grabbing you from behind. I started the evening hoping to do some celebrity spotting, but the bar staff said that none of them had come this year. Bono’s taken a break from writing his newspaper column and giving lectures about economic development in the third world to spend time on one of his pet projects – apparently he also sings in some Irish rock band called “You Too?” (which sounds like a stupid name if you ask me). Sharon Stone was busy washing her hair, Michael Douglas was playing golf, and Peter Gabriel was doing whatever he does (the barman wasn’t sure what that is). It seems that hanging out with the world’s elite isn’t so good for sales of albums and films when it becomes obvious they’ve made a mess of things.

Saw Tony Blair on some panel about the values of capitalism. Not bad for a guy who was leader of what was once a socialist party. He talked about all his friends who were investment bankers and said that values were important. Then he said some other words and some other words and I couldn’t work out what he was talking about but he made it sound like he was a nice person who cared deeply about things. I was going to ask him a question about economics but I thought that might be a bit mean, as he obviously doesn’t know anything about that, so I asked him about fluffy bunny rabbits instead. Blair gave a considered answer and concluded that fluffy bunny rabbits were good and we needed to look out for their interests within the context of strong international relationships based on common values including social justice. He took another question from the floor about the impact of the slowdown on economic and political relations in the Middle East, and Blair answered that peace in the Middle East depending on a network of core values between international leaders with the courage to have relationships with common values including social justice. Somebody then asked about the need for market liberalization to assist with the development of Africa, and Blair answered, in considered tones, that we had moved from the old cliches of international aid and needed to forge a new global network, based on shared and common values of social justice, which would have the courage to realize the interests of Africa within the context of strong international relationships. Somebody then asked Tony Blair to remind everyone how many millions he was paid to meet the clients of JP Morgan, the US investment bank, and questioned whether Blair was the right person to talk on a panel about the values of capitalism and the need to improve the regulation of the greedy banking sector. Blair told him to piss off.

I found out Gordon Brown was talking in Davos, so I snuck in the back to listen. I could barely hear him over the snores, and found myself falling into a deep coma moments later. Davros shocked me with his electric cattleprod and dragged me out, only barely conscious. Now I know why Blair wouldn’t let him take over for so long.

Caught a panel with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and a lot of other bores from Microsoft, Duetsche Telekom et al. Apparently lots more phones, internet, web 2.0, social networks etc are going to make the world a much much better place. I asked about how a slump in advertising fitted with the dominant business models but somebody else spoke over me and gave an uplifting story about how Twitter and Facebook had been used to enable communication between a group of individuals wanting to illegally restore Burmese architecture without the permission of the ruling junta. Let’s hope Vladimir Putin and Wen Jiabao weren’t listening to the live webcast or they’ll be in blind panic about the threat to their regimes – or maybe not. I caught Mark Zuckerberg after the talk and asked if he really thought Facebook was making the world a better place. He laughed and demanded that I tell him more about myself first. I refused and then he said “you’re not my friend so I’m not going to talk to you”. Davros tried his stun ray on him, but Zuckerberg was surrounded by a forcefield, causing Davros some nasty feedback and making him blow a circuit or two. Davros said he’d had the original idea for Facebook but that Zuckerberg had stolen it whilst they were at college together on the planet Skaros eight hundred years ago. I said that his Facebook page said he was only 24, but Davros just laughed and said I shouldn’t trust anything I read on the internet.

There’s a big cardboard cut-out of Barack Obama in the lobby of one of the luxury hotels. You can stand beside it and have your picture taken with the new leader of the free world. I was going to wait in line but got fed up when Gordon Brown pushed ahead of me in the queue. Brown put his arm around the cutout, but when he did, I could swear I saw the cutout yawning.

Bumped into Rupert Murdoch in the hotel bar, and he was chatting with his pal, Al Gore. Murdoch was talking about how his new 3D, high-definition television was so good, it was like the person was in the room. Davros butted in and asked Gore if he could help him with his revolutionary designs for electric transport. Gore looked bemused and said nobody would ever take his ideas seriously. That upset Davros and he spat back that they’d take it as seriously as a man who couldn’t beat George W. Bush in an election and who since then has spent his time flying all over the world to talk about the threat of climate change. Murdoch cut in but before he could make his point, Davros barked at him that if his high-def TV was so good, then why didn’t he stay at home and communicate through his satellite link, instead of coming all the way to Switzerland in person. I made some joke about ‘inconvenient truths’ as I dragged Davros away, but nobody laughed.

Looked at the signage around the World Economic Forum: “entrepreneurship in the global public interest”. Hmmm. The same people have been coming here, serving the global public interest for over thirty years. Imagine the mess the world would be in without them. Now imagine the mess the world is in with them. Then take a look at the expense accounts to get all these people to this up-market ski resort. It makes me wonder if the world would be a better place if they all stayed home and did something useful instead. Then again, maybe these people don’t do anything useful – their skill is getting ahead in the global rat race, not in reforming it. Davros is fed up because nobody is interested in his electric wheels and is threatening to obliterate the whole town as an act of revenge. I’m trying to persuade him to go back to Weston-super-Mare and have a cup of tea. But before I do I’m going to enjoy the one thing this town is good for, and the one thing that all these world leaders do seem to be able to deliver: a long downhill slide.

Those were the highlights from my clone, MaV-Eric, who spent the week at the World Economic Forum at Davos. I do hope he is not going to go next year, as it sounds like he does not really understand what globalization is all about. Perhaps instead of making him watch TV news, I should have introduced him to my next-door neighbour, the former economics professor from the University of Warsaw. I would have had him over to talk to the clones, but I did not want to disturb him. He has been working the night shift, stacking shelves at Asda, which is the only job he can get now his building skills are no longer needed by the once rampant hordes of buy-to-let “property developers”.

That is all from me, as I am far too busy to write any more on this blog. All the time I saved by getting my new clones to do the household chores has been spent investigating options to outsource my blogging. Apparently there’s a guy in the Philippines who will ghost-write my blog for less than ten cents per thousand words. That sounds like a good deal to me, but first I will experiment with allowing a monkey to do it by hitting a keyboard randomly. According to the internet, Shakespeare used monkeys to write all his plays. The “Do It With Monkeys” group on Facebook also says monkeys do no worse than average when it comes to making investment decisions. If MaV-Eric does go back to Davos next year, perhaps he should take some monkeys with him and see what mischief they get up to. After all, they are unlikely to make things worse than they already are.

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