Month: December 2014

Flora margarine: fake food fuckery

I have a thing about marketing. Yes, I’m a marketer, but I’m not a traditional marketer. I’m more your guerilla marketer (although I was a very hairy baby so “gorilla” is perhaps more fitting), and I actually have a few principles; one of them being that I won’t market anything that involves deceiving people.

I can’t stand cynical marketing that deliberately cons people. On this, I’m with the wonderful Bill Hicks:

But others aren’t quite so principled. Take Unilever’s Flora range, for example. Unilever’s advertising would have us believe that their products are actually better than the very things they’re replicating. Things like butter, and olive oil. Better than these.

So, let’s play a game.

Guess how many ingredients are in “Flora Buttery”. 

Ok, I’ll tell you. It’s 14.

Yup.

This “food” contains FOURTEEN ingredients:

Vegetable oils in varying proportions (70%) (sunflower, rapeseed, palm and linseed), water, BUTTERMILK (12%), salt (1.5%), emulsifier (mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids), citric acid, preservative (potassium sorbate), natural flavouring (contains MILK), vitamins A and D, colour (carotenes).

Sounds delicious, hmmm..? Get it on your crumpets. Or maybe not.

Ingredients in butter? Erm…butter (well, cream actually).

"Western-pack-butter" by Steve Karg, aka Skarg at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Western-pack-butter.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Western-pack-butter.jpg

“Western-pack-butter” by Steve Karg, aka Skarg at en.wikipedia

And then we have Flora Cuisine: a “yummy” liquified version of Flora margarine that Unilever are peddling as a healthy alternative to olive oil – with a mere 16 ingredients, this time. Yes, you heard that right.

Healthier than olive oil. 

They used to say this outright but have obviously had their knuckles rapped for being economical with the truth (ie blatant lying), so instead they’ve put in it shifty Markety Flim-Flam: “And because it’s lower in saturated fat than olive oil and high in omega 3, it’s a healthy choice too”. Okaaaaay. Well, aside from the fact that  Unilver are implying that their lab-created concoction is better for us than (pure, natural) olive oil, 1: olive oil contains only 14% saturated fat anyway, and 2: despite what some food companies want you to believe, natural saturated fats are not bad for you after all: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/10October/Pages/Saturated-fat-link-with-heart-disease-questioned.aspx. More on that in another post.

Oh, and ingredients in olive oil?? Oil. From olives.

I don’t need to quote that well-worn “margarine is two molecules away from plastic” internet story at you for you to know that this sort of chemically produced stuff is just not good for us. This sort of non-food is what makes people ill – not natural fats, saturated or not. This and, of course, sugar (not called The White Death for nothing). Companies who sell this kind of product are opportunists with massive marketing budgets,  making equally massive profits out of selling cheaply-made fake foods to unsuspecting consumers in what is a very murky marketplace that favours big food corporations and their expert lobbyists.

Don’t fall for it.

My advice? Don’t touch anything that should contain one or two ingredients yet has 15 – let’s face it, it’s never going to be nice, is it? Eat natural food that’s good for you and your body, and tastes fantastic – like butter, olive oil, coconut oil and even lard. Yes, lard – or better still, dripping! Fry your eggs in it, make yorkshire puds with it and stick it in your pastry. We humans evolved eating natural fats so they must be good for us. This is my logic and I’m sticking to it.

Turns out Mother Nature is a motherfeckin’ GENIUS after all! Who’da guessed..?!

PS – and Unilever, the company that makes Flora? A multinational company, one of the petrochemical industry’s biggest customers, and the people who very likely make your detergent, your bleach and your shampoo. They also make the truly abominable  “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter”. Enough said.

PPS – interestingly, a general Google search for Flora includes the message: “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.”. This usually means that someone affiliated with Flora has requested that certain information about Flora be deleted.  Why could this be? Hmmm. Make of it what you will…

Advertisements

My Communication Fatigue: Why I just can’t be bothered… (…to even finish this sentence.)

I am unwell. Out of sorts. Under the weather. 

ill

I’m suffering from an illness so socially severe, that I risk losing good friends and upsetting the people in my life that matter most to me. It’s serious and it’s a bit embarrassing; Dr Christian would have me on the couch by now, legs akimbo, knees tucked behind my ears. The situation’s grave – desperate, even. And here are the dreadful symptoms (that is if I can bring myself to reveal them, such is the social stigma attached):

Emails go unanswered. Facebook messages get lost in the machine. And texts can take days to ping back to the recipient. Days. I regularly lie and say I never received anything.

But now I’m coming clean. I have a serious problem, and it’s that I’m in the advanced stages of CFS: or Communication Fatigue Syndrome as it’s known in certain circles (ok, just mine).

computer says no

My condition began to show its listless face a couple of years ago. Email, Facebook, twitter and texting – not to mention actual talking – were all getting a bit much for me. I worked in a busy, lively, open-plan office, and my job meant I was constantly talking to colleagues and suppliers; on the phone, on email and in meetings. I was communicating all day long, often using different media simultaneously.

So I really resented having to go home and carry on where I’d left off. Pretty much. Keeping in touch socially had started to feel like just another tedious administration task, and, as I’d never been that keen on (or good at!) admin, I’d ignore stuff until it became urgent. Never a good strategy. Friends got annoyed with me and I’d feel guilty and like a really bad person. And I don’t like feeling like a bad person (naughty’s ok – hell, yeah!) which meant that I’d have to do a damage limitation communication to get myself out of trouble – i.e., more bloody admin. Gah.

It was really getting to me. I felt like a stressed air traffic controller; friends and family stacked up like impatient 747s queuing in the sky above.  My life had turned into a tedious cycle of stress/guilt/admin that, quite frankly, I could well do without.

freedom

So I decided to take it back.

I figure if it’s my prerogative when to answer my phone (it is) then it’s also up to me when I reply to any other form of communication. I don’t react instantly and feel the need to treat messages as urgent (unless they actually are!). I generally take my own good time replying, and it feels great. Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone and there are some people in my life who struggle with my tardy transmissions. But – special exceptions aside – I’m not giving in. They just have to lump it. And on the whole it works fine – I even have a couple of friends who have taken my laid-back line. We treat non-urgent messages like little postcards: casual mini letters with an enquiry here, a comment there, and it really doesn’t matter if either of us takes days to answer. We know we will eventually.

It works beautifully; no stress, no guilt, everyone’s happy. Give it a try – what’s the worst that could happen..? The people who love you will accept it (with a little training) – and as for the ones who don’t…

Popping my cherry with Smut

smut

Last month I did something you don’t do every day: I went to my very first erotic writer’s convention. Yup. Smut Manchester, to be precise.

And, yes, it was 1. smutty, and 2. in Manchester, so they got the title bang on the money.

Safe to say, it was one of the most mundanely surreal days of my life.

My good friend Jennifer Denys is a published author and writer of erotic romance and she very kindly invited me along. As a writer, I’ve always got a few stories on the bubble and one genre I’ve not yet touched is erotica, either straight up or with a bit of romance thrown in. It’s not something I’ve thought about.

But that’s all changed. And how.

I got the trans-pennine train to Manchester and got lost, both getting to, and in, the hotel where it was being held, spending the first 10 minutes wandering and lurking around the place, muttering surreptitiously to various hotel staff members unlucky enough to bump into me: “Smut..? Excuse me, do you know where I can find Smut..?”. My self-conscious murmuring turned out to be pretty pointless as most of the staff weren’t English and didn’t understand me, although I was surrounded by delegates from a Deaf Signers convention that had spread out into the lobby so at least they will have picked it up…

smashrobot

Anyhoo, I finally found it – down a bit of a rabbit hole (anyone would’ve thought they wanted to keep us out of the way!) – and sidled into my seat, late as usual. But, thankfully in time to hear the talented *Ashley Lister read his wonderfully bawdy poem: The Ballad of Poor Dave , which had us all laughing our heads off – and had me rolling around like a Smash Robot. Very funny.

I’ve described the conference as “mundane” but I don’t really mean it because that would be to insult Smut and its members.  What I actually mean is that there was an ordinariness about the day that was really quite extraordinary, given its subject. The delegates and speakers were lovely and perfectly…well…normal  – not what you’d expect from an erotic writing conference.

Although not everyone was “normal”, as evidenced by the glorious apparition that was Sister Jaqui (she’s the one in the middle). Praise be.

me debs sister jackie

In fact, the impossibly fantabulous Sister was a star player in the craziest moment of the day. Picture a snapshot of a young, half-naked man, tied up in all kinds of leather and steel and with a ball gag in his mouth, being whipped by a 6ft 4 nun in a 1950’s cherry-print prom dress and red PVC platform boots. With a beard. In a hotel conferencing centre in central Manchester on a drizzly mid-November Saturday. As you do.

All in all, a cracking kinky day with lots of interesting stuff going on and fascinating people to meet – although it did make me realise that I don’t have a kinky bone in my body (I’m a right goer though! Oh yes ;)). Oh, and I won a bottle of lube on the tombola. Organic lube, at that.

Smut left me with inspiration and lots of naughty ideas – a fantastic kickstart to my erotic writing adventures.

Watch this space.

*Ashley’s blog: http://ashleylisterauthor.blogspot.co.uk/