Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

A genius + Google Earth =

A digression from my usual, I’ll give you that. But this, from today’s lecture by Chris Brauer, was too good not to share.

This, my friends, is what geniuses can do on Google Earth: a co-ordinate by co-ordinate re-enactment of the flight 1549’s crash into the Hudson River, complete with audio of the actual communications. I dare you not to feel nervous whilst watching.

Ut oh...

Ut oh...

Th!nk About It: more disappointment, with love from the BBC

Drum roll please… the BBC appear to have launched their ‘European Elections 2009’ efforts – with disappointing results. (This post can also be found here, on my Th!nk About It Page. Yet again – feel free to vote.)

More interesting than the EU?

More interesting than the EU?

I appreciate that this bemoaning of the BBC follows very much in the footsteps of my last Th!nk About It post, but when attempting to cover the EU from a British perspective your media options are bleak. To say the least. Most nationals avoid mentioning the EU at any cost for fear – I assume – of being tagged with the deadly label “pro-EU”, and even the BBC hides its ‘Inside Europe‘ page behind a confusing maze of links and graphics.

Once, however, one has managed to overcome the BBC’s attempts to keep you away, and reached Inside Europe, one might – if one looks hard enough – come across a piece entitled ‘Vote For Us’.

It was at this point that I got rather excited. And not just because when I see an EU name-drop in the British press a Th!nk About It light bulb lights up in my head – an energy efficient one, of course Etan. No, rather, I was excited to see how the BBC was going to kick off its election articles. I was disappointed. Even the first line:

Voters from across the European Union will be electing a new European Parliament in June – the first election since the EU enlarged in 2007, with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania.

inspired in me nothing but a sigh. A huge number of British citizens don’t even know they can vote – and I don’t think this introduction will have them running for the polling booths. The non-inclusive tone of “voters from across the European Union” (ie, “them, not us”) is only going to add to British EU ignorance. And although whether or not the BBC has an obligation to increase the UK public’s knowledge of the EU (what with being a public corporation) is another question (and one to be raised by someone with far more authority than me), I certainly don’t think it should be misleading. Yet, arguably, this is what the first sentence is.

I won’t even draw attention to the fact that it doesn’t give the date of the election.

Things appear to look up, however, when the BBC promises a couple of sentences later:

Here, leaders of the political groups in the outgoing parliament explain why, in their view, people should turn out to vote.

Great, I thought. Something really informative. Something that will not only give me something interesting to blog about, but will also (and maybe slightly more importantly) provide the European voter with compelling, balanced and helpful information enabling them to make an informed decision on 4th June.

Yet again, I was disappointed.

What followed seemed to be a series of SENTENCES (yes, just one sentence) pulled from press releases. A series of seven one-sentence adverts for political parties that appear to say little more than: “vote for me… please, vote for me!”

To illustrate my point:

“For us the European elections are very very important”

“We’ve got a chance here – where there’s no wasted vote – to try to actually say what we think”

“It is very important that electors and voters understand that they have to go to vote, because this is not peanuts…”

And with that, I found myself distracted by a picture below the article captioned: ‘Elephants kiss each other’ and along with (I’m sure) the rest of the British public, I clicked on it, leaving the BBC’s coverage of the Parliament elections far behind and not looking back.

Ut Oh

There’s only one thing to say to this:

Ut oh.


Th!nk About It: changing the world one exclamation mark, blog post and dance at a time

Following in my BBC blogfellow’s footsteps (see below) I have just returned from an all-expenses-paid trip to Brussels. Incidentally, this was my second all-expenses-paid trip to Brussels in just over a month- I’m starting to think that the EU has too much money. But that’s a separate post altogether.

This time I was attending the launch of “the first ever pan-European blogging competition” – which although impressive isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that I am one of the UK’s three bloggers. Stop laughing, I know loads about the EU…

This exciting venture is known to few, but will soon to be known to many, as:

Th!nk About It. No, that wasn’t a slip of the finger, that’s an exclamation mark in the place of an I. Cooool.

Or that’s what I thought. Turns out the ! isn’t just to make the competition seem cool, Mandy-style (then again, an EU blogging competition by EU bloggers about the 2009 European Parliament elections needs all the cool-help it can get). It’s actually so that when blogs/photos/videos etc about the competition (of which there are a scary amount already) are tagged with ‘Th!nk 09’, they’ll pop up on Google quicker than you can say “but I couldn’t care less about the European elections”.

And that’s the most interesting thing about Th!nk About It. No, not the ! in the place of an I. And no, not the rather worrying video taken by my fellow UK blogger Etan before one of the lectures that I’ll “imbed” at the end of this post.

It’s that despite the free-food-and-wine-and-trip-to-Brussels fuelled enthusiasm of my 85 fellow Th!nkers (don’t ask), it will be interesting to see whether our desperate attempts to (learn about and) blog about the EU will have any effect at all.

Is an 18-year-0ld from, urm, Truro any more likely to vote in the European election because I wrote about the reasons bloggers give for sneakily swapping letters for punctuation? Or even if I blog about something with more resonance (which I quite clearly trying to avoid)?

Bloggers like to think they can change the world – this much was clear in Brussels. If nothing else, Th!nk About It is an impressive attempt at a first step.

And finally, thanks Etan:

And you didn’t think Fox News could get any worse? Then they sent Joe the Plumber to Gaza.

I read, today, in The Economist (note capital T – I’ve learnt my lessons) that Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher had been reporting from Israel for Fox News.

Dingleingleingle went a fictional bell. I stopped reading and pondered: I know that name. But from where? Two first names… (or is it one first name and one middle name that is pronounced? Either way, it’s American)… A surname that makes me think of a pretzel originating from Germany… Hmm… I continued reading.

Now I feel in no way qualified to comment on the current situation in Gaza. I do, however, feel qualified to say this: if I’m not, there’s no way Joe the flipping Plumber is either. And especially not for Fox News.

Better than Airfix: Černý comedy and British art-ignorance

Now, I wouldn’t necessarily have equated artists with comedy genius. Rarely, for instance, do I leave a gallery in hysterics. Then again, rarely do I leave a gallery. And although I’m sure that some art is funny, one of the unfortunate by-products of being horrifically art-ignorant (along with getting easily bored) is that I don’t understand it.

But I do understand this (I’m not going to say this Guardian slide-show didn’t help) , and I flipping love it:

Is it an Airfix? No!

Is it an Airfix? No!

This is not, despite first appearances, a giant Airfix model, still in packaging. Nor is it one of those weird Lewis Hamilton-Santander adverts that I never, again, quite understood. This, my friends, is a whopping great piece of art called Entropa outside the European Council headquarters that takes the piss out of the EU’s member states.

A good question, at this point, is how a whopping great piece of art that takes the piss out of EU member states ended up outside the European Council? I imagine many Brussels-based officials are asking themselves the same question.

The answer is David Černý – a comedy genius Czech artist of eight tonne proportions, who not only breaks my stereotypes, but also managed to con pretty much the whole of the European Union. The official mosaic of the Czech six-month presidency was supposed to be created by 27 artists – one from each member state – which Černý, when asked, promptly made up. Not only is he a comedy genius, but a liar too! He gets better and better.

But what I love most about this is that few media eyebrows were raised before today. (Bruno Waterfield was one of the first, yesterday at 2pm.) And yet, the mosaic (for this is apparently what it is. Heaven knows why) was unveiled on Monday…

Any particular reason that the media didn’t give many column inches to, for instance, a sunken Netherlands, a masturbating Slovenia, or Russia being covered in Lithuanian wee? Oh, or missing Britain (just for laughs, look at this Guardian bungle). In the centre of Euroland? Urm, yes. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one that doesn’t understand art – no one else does either. It just takes two days and a public admission to force them to admit it.

Peter Mandelson: worse than my parents’ dinner party conversation

When I think of Second Life it makes me feel awkward – and not just because a parallel universe existing only on computer screens and in the minds of weird people is weird. But also because the people who talk about Second Life tend to be people like my parents, who have read about it in some Telegraph supplement and think it’s cool dinner party conversation.


I have never met a person with a Second Life avatar (and surely I’m in their catchment demographic?) but i know what an avatar is because of the broadsheet features that one cannot escape no matter how hard one tries. The divorce didn’t help much, but then they rarely do. And the fact that I have never met a person who plays (and I doubt this verb is the correct one) the game (ditto) yet my grandparents know about Second Life is the primary reason it makes me so uncomfortable.


Unsurprisingly, then, it was with trepidation that I read of Peter Mandelson’s new avatar. Apparently, repeatedly coming back from the dead (sorry, Brussels) isn’t enough. This Frankensteinian move comes as one of the many publicity stunts surrounding the launch of Labour’s blog, LabourList.org, on February 12th.


When  I was working as a parliamentary intern for the Labour party last summer all bar talk was of Obama’s great use of “that internet thing) (ok, so maybe not quite that bad. But close) and the party seemed desperate for a bit of that Facebookin’ action. But the reason Obama’s online campaign worked so well – and what those propping up the much loved House of Commons bar didn’t seem to grasp – was that he was young enough to actually know what Facebook was. Without having to turn to his grandchildren.


Labourlist.org may be a success – I hope it is, and don’t see why it shouldn’t be with some chuffing big names to its name. But the avatar is an infinite amount of steps too far. Mandelson has been reading too many broadsheet supplements, and although this leads to horrifying, but innocent, dinner party conversation in my parents, in Mandelson it leads to something much worse: a very worrying skin tone, and no respect from anyone under the age of 26.


Our Secretary of State for Business, apparently:

Try humming the intro to the Jaws theme as an amusing soundtrack to the image.

Try humming the Jaws theme as an amusing soundtrack to accompany your viewing.

Panorama: An Ode to Peston, with Love from the BBC xxx

I have just watched one of the most ridiculous television programmes my licence fee has ever paid for.

It was entitled ‘Panorama: The Year Britain’s Bubble Burst’, and I know that I’m about two weeks behind everyone else on this… but praise the iPlayer, for I can watch it now.

Now I think it’s fair, when settling down to watch ‘Panorama: The Year Britain’s Bubble Burst’, to live in hope of learning the “inside story of the banking crisis” (as the adverts led us to believe). I was wrong. Turns out the title of the programme is misleading. The most accurate title would be ‘Panorama: An Ode to Peston, with Love from the BBC xxx’.

I started to smell a rat (a stuttering one at that) when they showed Peston’s audition tapes for the position of the BBC’s business editor for no discernible reason, 1 minute 42 seconds in. I grant, they were entertaining – but exactly what effect they have on the banking crisis I am still attempting to work out.

But it was when Ian Blandford, a ‘Presentation Coach’ (this job exists, apparently), came on screen to tell me about Peston’s “vertical thinking” that I attempted to check what channel I was on, before realising that I was watching iPlayer and the title of Panorama quite clearly stated at the bottom of the screen. Incidentally, a man named Ian Blandford – a trained electrician – also presents the BBC’s ‘To Buy or Not To Buy‘… Must be some kind of coincidence.

Ian, fortunately, was followed by a relatively interesting discussion about whether economic journalists have responsibilities to consider the effects of their broadcasts, in the wake of Peston’s Northern Rock scoop.

But things were soon about to go downhill. And at the bottom of that hill was an interview with Peston’s parents and clips from his “Haringey State school” (said with dread – let’s all be impressed he went to state school everyone). But the very lowest point was when we were treated to a slideshow of photos of Peston growing up. Yes, baby photos of Robert Peston. On a Panorama about the world banking crisis.

Enjoy (these are print-screened off the programme – apologies BBC. But almost certainly worth a court case):

Hot.

Hot.

Who’d have thought someone who looks so much like a stud (top and bottom right) could look so much like a crim (bottom left)? Amazing. I digress.

And it’s exactly this digression that has got my goat. Give me my goat back, Peston! I want to know the inside story on the banking crisis, as promised. Not what you looked like at 22.

Now I’m as interested in Peston’s sources, horrific pauses and baby photos as the next person; probably more so what with being a journalist in training, specialising in finance and business. But not on a Panorama entitled ‘The Year Britain’s Bubble Burst’. Unless we’re referring to some BBC economics editor shaped bubble that burst the minute Evan Davis took a sabbatical.

Ah, a moment to morn the loss of Davis, aka Morph.

Morph... and Davis

But let’s not be too sad – there are some good things about having Peston on the BBC despite his hijacking of Panorama. Never before, for instance, has it been so easy to do an accurate impersonation simply by holding one’s nose.

“Expert” my arse.

BBC expert casts his eye back 2008’s opinion polls.”

And not a ruler extrapolation in sight. Pah.

Rossendale Valley – hits the news for the forth time ever!

It’s not very often that Rossendale Valley appears on the national news. There are three other times I can recall, which after living here for 20 years says a quite lot.

The first time was when Sky News decided that the Rossendale constituency was a marginal seat in the 2005 election (incidentally, Labour won again). They interviewed me and asked what I thought about the Tory’s policy on ASBOs. I didn’t know what one was. It was live. It was hell. Moving on.

The second was when a man from Hall Carr (a council estate in Rawtenstall – the town which guide books would, I can only imagine, call “the heart of the valley”) shot at people out of his bedroom window. The mother of my Cheshire-based boyfriend at the time expressed concerns about him travelling to the valley after that.

The third was when Sophie Lancaster was murdered in Bacup (definitely not the heart of the valley) by some drunken scum. This still upsets a lot of people including me, so we’ll move on. This was the last time (as far as I know) that the valley was mentioned in the national press…

Until now!

18,000 Rossendalians could be left without gas and electricity on Christmas day after a gas mains exploded on Monday.

(Wow, get that intro. That’s what a ridiculous amount of ‘news writing workshops’ does to you – writing intos when you don’t even want to be writing intos. But perhaps I should lose the quite obviously fictional term ‘Rossendalians’.)

I have tried to locate all 18,000, and although failed, have found that about ten of my friends are affected – which, interestingly (or not) is about 0.05556% of the statistic.

Gutted for them. It’s quite interesting to think of what you can do without gas or electricity. After you’ve thought you’ll come to the same conclusion as I: absolutely nowt (as we say in Rossendale). I always wondered why Jane Austin, the Brontës and Dickins were such big fans of “needlework”. Now I know.