Thursday, August 15, 2019

Lose the Lot the Trading Way

I frequently review and criticise advertisements for their subtle, or blatant, attempts to seduce us into buying something, whether by selective manipulation of the facts, use of utterly irrelevant images or sound bites or by playing on our emotions to create a false connection with a brand. How refreshing  - and yet rather chilling, for reasons I will explore below - to see one that appears to be direct and honest.

Click on this to see it larger

This one popped up on a website offering online word and puzzle games and has absolutely nothing to do with it. I'm rather baffled why the advertiser thought it worthwhile at all but, leaving that to one side, what we have here is someone offering gambling trading in - well, they don't bother to say what it is you will be trading, it probably doesn't matter much because if you are sort of the person whose eyes light up with pound dollar signs at the word "trade" and do an instant mental find-and-replace with the phrase "easy money" then no doubt this ad will suck you in.

I'm glad they regard themselves as a "broker with integrity". The strap-line "Sharks and Co, brokers who'll take you to the cleaners before you can grab a coffee" was probably rejected at an early planning session. But it is the little paragraph at the foot that compels our attention. Having used large letters to promote themselves as intermediaries for trading, they then inform us that 73.5% of "retail investors" (you and me, in plain talk) lose money this way.

Now, if you are someone like Boris "Don't bother me with statistics" Johnson you can blithely ignore this warning, assume that you yourself have no less than a million to one chances of losing and go ahead and put yours and the nation's shirts on a bet. [This piece of anti-Brexit rhetoric is brought to you entirely free as a bonus for reading this far: Ed] And, if you are anyone with a brain, you will surely look at this and think "Gosh, thanks for the warning, guys, my money stays where it is". What we seem to have here, ladies and gentlemen, is an anti-ad, an ad that actually begs its readers to stay away from the poison on offer, and therefore surely one of the most honest ads ever submitted.

Now for the chilling part. Admen do not deliberately waste money. They must have inserted this notice, not to put off potential customers but to draw them in. They are, I assume, complying with an industry regulation by putting up the warning of losses but they don't care that they are encouraging such losses. The ad runs anyway. Therefore, they must assume that plenty of readers are indeed brainless and reckless and furthermore that, even though the ad is encouraging people to lose money through making trades on things they clearly do not understand, this company is going to enable them to do it. It is exactly the same as a dealer in hard drugs saying (in large print) "Feel great and relaxed, sniff all your troubles away" and then in small print below "Drugs lead to dependency, addiction, despair and suicide". 

A cynic like myself, who despises all forms of commercial advertising, will ignore this sort of ad anyway. But how many will be tempted to click on the "Trade now" button so that they can "trade directly from advanced charts" (and that really is snake-oil)  and, get this, "analyse market trends". Yup, in a world where skilled professionals do nothing else but study and analyse markets, you, the ignorant amateur, can outfox them all and decide how to invest your savings just by looking at a few lines on a screen and maybe extrapolating them through cunning use of a pencil and ruler (note: drawing lines on a computer monitor with a pencil may damage the glass). And then you can join the three-quarters of investors who lose money (and how much do the winners actually make, you may ask, but don't ask me because I haven't a clue).

We shall not be studying 100 types of charts, with or without the tempting promise of overlays. We shall not be clicking on the button to trade now or at any time.

Would you like to invest in the Ramblings Financial Derivative? Charts with overlays are available  (once we can find that old pack of graph paper stuffed down the back of the desk and sharpen up a few coloured pencils). Send all the money you have to the usual address. Terms and conditions apply including the one that says we don't have to answer any enquiries or account to you for your money. Warning: You'll lose everything with this utterly useless investment but as you probably haven't bothered to read this far, we have no scruples about putting this warning at the bottom of the page.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Blindingly Obvious

We were in Sainsbury's in Ripon, my good lady wife and myself, stocking up with some essentials to make a light supper in our holiday cottage (having just enjoyed a full Sunday lunch) and whilst waiting to pay I casually cast my eyes over the magazines at the checkout. This is a very helpful way of staying abreast of the most important news stories of the day "My teenage sex hell", "Rick and Dolores - She wants him but he wants her sister", "My dear old grandmother the axe murderer" - you probably know the sort of thing. The beauty of it all is that there is no need to read the stories or to have the faintest idea who anyone is - it is all laid out in the screaming headlines and quite often you get two or three perfectly serviceable exclamation marks thrown in completely free.

I was, I confess, taken aback by the story on the top left of the cover of some piece of obvious junk called Closer. A picture of some bird in a bikini, cocking her head at the camera in the most approved Lady Diana style and sporting a pair of glaring red eyeballs of the kind that are normally only seen on vampires in the sort of video games that I play from time to time. The strap-line was riveting, so much so that I had to take a picture of it and here it is.

My eyeball tattoos could have blinded me. (by "Mum of three")
Well, I must say. Who knew? You go to some back street tattoo parlour, negotiate for a pair of crossed hearts and the slogan "Elvis - always in my heart", the hefty bloke with the shaky hands rolls his fag to the corner of his mouth, powers up his drill and says "Look up at the ceiling, my darling, and for heaven's sake don't blink". What on earth could go wrong?

I wonder if the same artist does brain transplants on the side, for mums of three who clearly have far more important things in their lives than keeping an eye (tattoed or not) on their offspring. I think she could do with one.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Style Over Substance

The election of Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore as Prime Minister (pro tem) has produced some disquieting changes in its wake. Johnson, beholden to the strange people who believe that the British Empire is not dead but just resting, has appointed Jacob Rees-Mogg as Leader of the Commons. And Mogg, reverting to type, has made his first instruction to his staff a set of rules about grammar and English usage in written communications.

 One might think that there were more pressing matters than insisting that all non-titled men should have Esq. affixed to their names and banning words like "unacceptable","very"," disappointment", "equal", "lot" and "ongoing" (though I'm with him on that last one). But Mogg has more serious issues with which to grapple. He has also insisted on the use of Imperial measurements. It is not clear which Empire he has in mind - possibly the one so brilliantly led by President G. Khan whose inspiring use of impalement as a way of settling political disputes has clarified many a knotty debate during the long hot summers in Karakorum.

But be that as it may, let us eavesdrop on a meeting with one of his senior advisors.

"Sir, great news, Adam Peaty has won a gold medal in the fifty metre breaststroke at the World championships"
"We'll have that again correctly, shall we, Rutherford?"
 "Sorry sir. Adam Peaty Esq, a non-titled gentleman and citizen of the Empire has achieved meritorious success at the fifty-four point six eight yard breaststroke"
"How much is that in rods and perches?"
 "I make it about nine point nine four rods, sir"
 "That seems highly creditable."
 "And we've researched the auction you were interested in, sir. There's a very nice snuff box in lot 38"
 "No, Rutherford"
 "I mean in, er, in that segment of the auction that is identified as, er ...."
 "Your conduct is unacceptable, Rutherford. I'm disappointed in you. Very disappointed."
 There is a long uncomfortable silence.
"Perhaps I'm not equal to this line of work after all, Rutherford. Carry on, would you. I think I left my old service revolver with my second footman ...."

[All Imperial measurements have been checked with those helpful folk at Google. Er, Google Esq. No, dammit, those helpful folk, Esq at Messrs. Google. Damn, that's French, Moggy won't like that. Look, just forget the whole thing, would you. Ed]

Friday, July 26, 2019

A Slice of Oral History

A little plug for an interview about my experiences when working for a computer games publisher in the 1980s called Mastertronic. It was recorded by The Retro Hour, the interviewer was the affable Dan Wood and you can hear it right here.

Slowly Cooling

It was, indeed (as predicted previously), pretty damn warm yesterday. Very near the record here in beautiful Ruislip, and across much of Europe. Fortunately some thunderstorms during the small hours have helped lower temperatures this morning though it remains humid. Amazingly England and Ireland (yes, really) played a Test match at Lords, the Tour de France struggled on into the Alps and even my local non-league football team was out training. I don't know how they do it.

Extraordinary sporting day. In the Test, Ireland  had scuttled out England in their first innings for 85 then scored 207. A historic win looming? Nope. Yesterday England scored 303. A confident Irish commentator opined that Ireland would certainly get the 180 odd runs needed to win. This plan worked brilliantly until they began their innings at which they scored 38 in just 15 overs. That's 38 all out, not for the first wicket or because the match had to be abandoned. 38 all out.

Meanwhile, in the Alps, Egan Bernal made a brilliant attack on Col de Liseran to go into the virtual leadership over the wonderfully combative Julian Alaphillipe and then the race was stopped before the final climb because the mountain road was under several inches of snow. Yes, snow, I saw the live pictures including a bulldozer making valiant but futile efforts to sweep it away. (And there was a landslide across the road as well). As a result Bernal wins the stage and the yellow jersey without Alaphillipe having had the chance to recover time on the long descent.  So this unusual weather continues to wreak its effects.