He lost his job in ‘eighty-six
And watched the gathered triumphs
Begin to crumble in the glare of looming poverty.
The outside world is nice and safe behind
Its wall of glass. Briefly misted in small patches of despair
His soul begins to starve upon itself.
She tries to keep the home together; his nucleus is
Terribly unstable. Things went
From bad to worse, he lost his way
Walking through the park
Got drunk one night and tried to stab a queer; the knife
Was limp and wouldn’t hit the mark.
He builds a careful drama from
The stream of day-to-day events; the only time
He comes to life is when he’s watching her enact the scenes
Contrived by his diseased imagination.
He watches mute; she pauses to allow a car to pass,
And makes her way along the narrow street.
And though she doesn’t know it, she’s a star.
I was wandering around YouTube the other night, looking at various conspiracy theory lectures, clips from Hollywood movies, and computer-generated landscapes. And then I started watching the pop videos, having a good old wallow in Eighties nostalgia.
I gradually realised that YouTube was giving me a menu of suggested items, based on what I had been previously enjoying. There were any number of unexpected duets: Elton John with Prince; Dave Gilmour with Tom Jones; and Miss Piggy with Ozzy Osbourne. Some of these were fascinating, others annoying; but it occurred to me that creative artists seem to thrive in each other’s’ company, and often we can find a song lifted to new heights by a star cameo. Joe Cocker turned a jolly Beatles song into a blues monster, and when Dame Shirley Bassey told us to ‘Get This Party Started’ you just knew she meant business. ‘Life on Mars?’ is a clever, charming ballad; but Rick Wakeman’s piano gives it a new depth and grandeur.
And I sometimes wonder if the scientific field would benefit from the sharing of ideas by skilled workers. During my career I have noticed that many firms are reluctant to share ideas in any way. This appears in the ‘We’ve Always Done it This Way’ syndrome, where new ideas are unwelcome (as one manager liked to put it, ‘You’re not here to think, you’re here to work!’)
As well as being resistant to any incoming ideas, firms are often highly protective of their own intellectual property – quite understandable, when you think of the untold millions that are spent on developing new medicines. Contracts of employment will prohibit staff from having any unauthorised contact with workers from rival companies – or even discussing their work with people from neighbouring departments.
One is reminded of Richard Carpenter; when his sister Karen was on the brink of a successful solo career, he persuaded the record company that she had stolen some of the vocal techniques they had developed together and therefore should not have been allowed to release her new album.
If firms are so convinced that their own procedures are superior (to anything carried out by the heathens on the other side of the mountain) then surely all job adverts would specify ‘No Experience Necessary’. But they don’t.
The ‘ideas’ within many firms – formulations, procedures, designs – can be corrupted during the process of transmission. The personnel who carry out tasks will want to maintain a certain level of job security, and so they will avoid revealing how some procedures are carried out. It is even possible that some workers may attempt to hinder their colleagues’ career progress by discreet sabotage.
And I can’t help wondering if industrial firms could benefit from allowing their staff to take part in collaborative ventures, to allow them to be exposed to new ideas.
Profexxional, Foul 16.03.05
And meanwhile, here at Sterling Tech
My days are full but nothing is achieved;
My nights, it seems, are all hard spent
In search of that elusive element
That occupies the absent space between
Nitrogen and Oxygen, at once a substance
Vital and inert, a whispered message
From an exiled kingdom.
Caught between the light dark squares
Of the everlasting field
Waits for the facts to be exposed
Here in some abandoned Trafford Park.
In ten years’ time, what will you see
When you survey this avenue of doom
A hollow building, broken glass,
And memories of a firm that thought
Commercial triumph not too highly bought
To justify the massacre of souls
Whose suffering will far outlast the joy
Of making things that no-one really needs
In a yet-to-be discovered Trafford Park.