Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Master of Puppets

December 14th, 2008

So Oliver Postgate died then.  The reaction from the media was the sort usually reserved for a Pope. Nearly ten minutes of coverage on Channel 4 News goes someway to prove that conventional media is still ruled by men of a certain age. 

Watching the IT Crowd the other week I noticed a flaw in the basis for the episode (this is loosely connected). It was based around a web site that gave people stock quotes about football, thus enabling the most nerdish to talk with “real men”. The liberal times we live in mean that you’re just as likely to have a mixed gender conversation about whether or not Gerrard and Lampard can effectively play together; and there’s nothing wrong with that.

No, the last preserve of male only conversation is cloying nostalgia for children’s programmes.

One of the weird consequences of Oliver Postgate’s death is that it proved a catalyst for exposing the facade of chumminess the Conservative Party have been carefully crafting. In the absence of policy the principle reason for the Conservatives claim on Government seems to be David Cameron is a nice BLOKE. He’s the sort of bloke you could go down the pub with and he wouldn’t be afraid to put his hand in his pocket.

In all likelihood David probably drinks pints of gold and frequents the sort of places that wouldn’t let me look at the door let alone walk through it.

The veneer of a sculptured  “everyman” was cruelly exposed by Radio 5 on Tuesday. On being told that Oliver Postgate had died David Cameron was asked what he thought. He told Nicky Campbell that he didn’t really understand the Clangers and preferred Ivor the Engine. The idiot. 

Everyone knows that Ivor the Engine was a bit crap. They had to write a dragon into it to try and maintain their dwindling audience. The Clangers was set in space with chickens. What is there not to understand?

My reaction to the news that Oliver Postgate was very much along the lines of “who is he?” Obviously I know the programmes as well as everyone else, but I’ve never known the name of the bloke that made them. To be honest if you’d asked me last week I would have assumed he was already dead.

The thing that has most struck me this week, as we’ve been shown clips of Bagpuss and the Clangers, is how relevant they continue to be today.

Much of my time recently has been taken up playing Little Big Planet. It truly is the natural successor of all of those children’s programmes from years ago. The irony is that it is the first game that has given a true representation of real life objects, which works because we can use Bagpuss as a frame of reference.  

Also, as we’ve heard this week, such classics as Bagpuss and the Clangers were made in a barn using household objects that had been left lying around. Little Big Planet gives us the tools to create similar scenes in the comfort of our own homes. 

So in a roundabout way I’m trying to say that Little Big Planet is a fitting tribute to a man whom I’d never heard of until Tuesday.  


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We Don’t Need No Regulation

December 13th, 2008

I reckon it is only a matter of time before Bernard Madoff becomes a truly household name. In a sense he’s already fairly famous what with having run the NASDAQ and being fantastically wealthy.

It now looks like there is a strong chance that all of this vast wealth could have been accumulated through the largest fraud ever perpetrated. It should be noted a fraud that has been perpertrated on some of the richest people in the world but as recent experience has probably taught all of us; when the wealthy are ripped off we tend to be the ones who put our hands in our pockets.

The most wrrying thing about this is that the potential fraud wasn’t dicovered through the diligence of regulators. It wasn’t even noticed as a result of Madoff seemingly outperforming the market in a recession. No, it was exposed because Bernard’s sons had the presence of mind to grass him up after he told them about it. It does seem a little bit strange that nobody really paid too  much attention to the inconsistent consistency of such odd profits.

Hopefully the conclusion of this investigation/trial might prompt people to realise that not properly regulating financial services is costing us a bloody fortune. The repercussions of this are likely to reach around the world but one UK company already believe that they have nearly 9% of their total value invested with Madoff. I don’t think they’re going to get it back.


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Second Go at Second Life

November 30th, 2008

Just glancing through the Register I noticed they have a story about Reuters giving up on their dedicated Second Life reporter. I remember that there was quite a fanfare when Reuters began their coverage.

I think it is interesting to note that it took a month for anyone to notice that coverage had stopped.

It made me think, what’s going on in Birmingham’s Second Life island at the moment?

I popped in to have a look and I’d have to say that absolutely nothing was going on. 

I’d be intersted to see if anyone has any usage stats given that it’s been up and running for a month now.


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Hold the Front Page

November 21st, 2008

I’ve suddenly become massively concerned with the future of printed journalism. It is clear that as a business model print journalism is facing competitive pressure from sources that you just wouldn’t have comprehended 15 years ago. Unfortunately as a reaction traditional media appears to be throwing away that extra value that I think gives it value.

In my day to day life I have dealings with three traditional forms of printed media (4 if you count TV Quick), The Guardian, The Birmingham Post and The Erinsborough News. Essentially I believe The Guardian is alright. They just understand the modern world and seem to have done a pretty good job of shaping it around them rather than the other way. The other two are obviously in crisis. Not a conventional business crisis with plummeting share prices and board room massacres (though there has been a bit of that). No, more of an identity crisis that has made them buy a Porsche and pinch young girls arses in a pub.

The Internet is always cited as the great motivator for change within media. This is true. The Internet has fundamentally changed the way that we look at news. We have become used to news always being current and always being free. I don’t think that this is really a reason to try and recreate the Internet within the printed media.

The great value I see with printed media is two fold. There is a front page and there is a professional narrative. The front page screams NEWS at me when I see it and makes me want to read it. The narrative comes from years of experience creating a linear experience of news. When I look at a paper I know someone has used their professionalism to decide that the news on page 2 is more important to me as a reader than the news on page 15. The Internet cannot fully achieve either of these. No site will devote their front page to one massive story. Really they don’t need to do so in order to drag people in.

Equally reading a web site is not a linear experience. There are many points of entry and the reader themselves chooses the route through to other stories. Clearly clever prominence of links facilitates this to an extent but not in the same way that the editor of a printed paper holds your hand on a daily journey of news.

Both the Birmingham Post and the Erinsborough News have recently lost their understanding of printed journalism. The Erinsborough News removed the last vestige of professionalism by allowing local hotel owner and murderer Paul Robinson to not only buy the paper but appoint himself as editor. Interestingly his stint as editor began by demonstrating some characteristics that were useful. He understood the front page. He obviously understood what his readers wanted (some of them at least). In the few weeks that he has controlled the paper I think it is fair to say that everyone he knows has obviously bought one and read it.

The decline in the Erinsborough News is obviously linked with Paul’s parochial nature. The paper’s obsession with the sex life of the school girl that lives over the road from him is going to have limited wider appeal. Unfortunately early plaudits appear to have conned him into believing that even more microscopic localism is needed. Thus hiring Susan Kennedy Kinski Kennedy as a journalist symbolises the foolish belief that a qualification in journalism now counts for absolutely nothing these days. The front page story about the wheelchair basketball team being banned from the community centre is a new low. Alright they were probably acting against disability legislation but really, do we care? No we don’t and nobody else does either.

The Birmingham Post have followed a similar path. Actually they haven’t, they’ve taken much more crazy steps than put a murderer in charge. In a move that could well wrong foot the entire industry The Birmingham Post have decided to not only reduce the amount of news but also hide it. The Birmingham Post was always a traditional broadsheet with pretensions towards something it wasn’t but still very much a focus on the news and local events. It was out of it’s time but I liked it for it.

I can’t argue with the fact that very few people ever bought it and it probably needed change. The change they settled on was to remove news from the front page. Think about that for a second. It is a newspaper but does not have news on the front page. Obviously there was a meeting to discuss this and I’m pretty sure there is a certain logic that underpins it. The main readers of the Birmingham Post have always historically been dentists, local businesses and council workers. Of these three groups local businesses are probably the only ones that are sufficient in number to be deemed to have economic power (they’re also the only ones that advertise). Businesses send out press releases every day about new things that have happened to them. This is easy journalism. Copy and paste and you have news. All of this news was previously hidden away in the middle section that everyone threw away.

Unfortunately the easy news was being thrown away and the advertisers probably knew this. So in a stroke of genius that Post decided to focus the front page on business news. Essentially press releases.

Now visitors to Birmingham who arrive at New Street Station are greeted with a front page yelling LOCAL SOLICITOR BUYS NEW HAT. It doesn’t tell the world we are a city of business. It tells the world that nothing much happened yesterday (and a certain someone now has a warm head). It is obviously not going to encourage the impulse purchase and those businesses that are featured probably would have bought it anyway.

So all in all I’m scared for the future.

At the end of the day it is probably important to bear in mind that I don’t ever buy either the Birmingham Post or the Erinsborough News. I get one given to me free and the other one doesn’t exist. 


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Otter man tragic chariot death

October 22nd, 2008

When writing a news story there are certain ingredients that through fate occasionally come together to create something truly odd.

If only you could combine:-

Oh great, someone has already done it.


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WOW : Terror Plot

October 19th, 2008

According to Wired the Pentagon have developed a theory on how World of Warcraft could be used to plan terrorist attacks. 

The ludicrousness of this claim is truly incredible. In fact the underlying factual basis of it is somewhat reduced by the quote:-

There’s been no public proof to date of terrorists hatching plots in virtual worlds.

So basically there is no evidence to to support it whatsoever and it’s people like me propagating this nonsence that give it credance. Oh, I hadn’t really thought that through.

It does look like there are a number of spies that quite fancy being paid to play Warcraft all day. Good luck to them, it’s probably good work if you can get it.


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Only 3 days to go

October 17th, 2008

There is literally only 3 days to go before Ringo Starr will implement his threat to stop signing “things”.

I’d sort of forgotten Ringo Starr even existed. Which does make me wonder what sort of person has things that they think will be better things if they’ve been signed by Ringo Starr.

In fact the whole thing has raised a number of questions in my mind:-

  1. What sort of “things” are people sending him?
  2. Why the 20th October? It seems a bit arbitrary.
  3. What is he too busy doing now that he wasn’t doing before?
  4. Is he drunk or mental? His video certainly doesn’t seem to be that coherent.
  5. Does he appreciate the irony of being portrayed in the Simpsons as the Beatle that always replied to every letter?

Having just read that last question back to myself I think there might be some sort of line of causality there. Though that episode of the Simpsons was shown 17 years ago so it’s taken him some time to reach this level of frustration.

Oh well, if you have anything that you want him to sign I’d get it in the post today.


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Global Financial Meltdown: My Role in it All

October 14th, 2008

You can’t read anything these days without it relating to the global financial apocalypse. All in all it’s getting a bit dull now. The prospect of war with Iceland seems to have receded, which is fairly disappointing and all the news consists of flashing red numbers and doom laden graphs.

As everyone seems to be cheering up a bit it might be a good time to begin to apportion blame.

Many people believe that the root cause of the root cause of the collapse of the world economy has been the lack of liquidity in bank lending as a result sub prime mortgage lending in the US. The de-regulation of US financial services would be an easy target when looking for someone to blame but I believe this is too simplistic.

In truth much of the responsibility for the situation we now find ourselves in sits firmly on the shoulders of the Guardian.  I know this because I saw it happen before my very eyes.

For the last couple of years I’ve been a fan of the Gamesblog run by the Guardian. The Guardian has really gone for the whole blogging thing but the one about video games in particular is the one that I look at everyday. Mainly because I like video games but also for the people that comment on there.

The main reason for its success is down to the fact that used to use pretty ancient blogging software. As a result quite a few people found that it was one of the only sites that they could look at whilst they were at work. Over the years a little community grew up of people that found they could avoid doing any work by using the comments section of the blog to have discussions about the types of drugs they used to take and biscuits.

As a result of the number of completely arbitrary comments the Guardian agreed to put a post up everyday just for comments. I haven’t really looked around the rest of the Guardian site but I’m pretty sure this was unusual. At its height this post could get over 500 comments in a day which just made up a very weird conversation.

It was quite obvious that of the 50 odd regular posters quite a few of them were from the banking sector. Particularly Lloyds TSB in all parts of the country. Over the last few years I’ve learnt quite a lot about Lloyds TSB.

This was all working fine until the Guardian decided it would be a really good idea to update its blogging software. Unfortunately this has meant that the comments now rely on java script and can’t be accessed in many work places.

It seems unlikely that it is any coincidence that the day after numerous Lloyds TSB employees were forced to go back to working for a living that our banking system collapsed. It also says quite a lot for their recruitment policy if when their employees do a full days work for a change the share price falls through the floor.

I hope this can serve as a warning to all those organisations out there that want to begin using draconian monitoring software. There can be unintended consequences. Sometimes those consequences can be worldwide recession.


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My favourite people in the world

September 18th, 2008

I’ve given this a remarkable amount of thought and I’m now in a position to clarify that my two favourite people in the world are He PingPing (the samllest man in the world) and Bao Xishun (the used to be tallest man in the world). Apparently Bao has been usurped by some Ukranian bloke but I’m not fickle.

At the end of the day if you had a dolphin in a tricky situation then you’re not going to ring up some random Ukranian are you? No, of course not.

I still wonder how they came to the conclusion that the only way to solve a dolphin’s life was to find a bloke with really long arms. Surely you’d just try a coat hanger with the end bent round first. I would but I’m very far from being a vet.

Anyway, imgaine how happy I was to see Pingping in the news this week having his photo taken with Svetlana Pankratova. She, apparently, has the longest legs in the world. For a woman at least. A remarkable achievement, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I have no idea why they were having their picture taken together. I couldn’t be arsed to read the story. I’m just content to know it happened.


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Aces High

September 16th, 2008

Every now and then you see a story that just could have been taken straight out of Viz. Yesterday was just such a day, or Sunday, dependant on whether you want to be really pedantic.

Of course I don’t mean the fantastic story of the woman who bought a bunny thats ears weren’t floppy enough. That was a great story and I’ve thought at length about what I would do in her situation. The only conclusion I’ve come to so far is that it was a clear case of criminal deceit and calling the police is the only rational course of action. Otherwise people will think they can palm off erect rabbits with absolutely no come back.

Clearly that wouldn’t have got into Viz as there is no substantial double entendre in the whole story. Having said that the one I’m thinking of hasn’t really got any sexual content either so my entire theory is in danger of being rubbish.

The most outstanding story of the last couple of days has to be the humanitarianism of Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson single handedly mounting a Berlin style airlift to rescue stranded holiday makers.

It is a fantastic example of how when events go truly tits up we can only really rely on celebrities to make everything better.

I love the idea that Bruce works a few days a week as an airline pilot just because he can. I have no idea how much money the bloke has got but as The Maiden have been pretty well constant for well over 20 years he must have a few quid in the bank.

In their seminal single Aces High, Iron Maiden demonstrated a truly in-depth knowledge or air to air combat. I imagine that this has come in really handy in the last couple of days as he skirted Israeli air space with a boot full of tourists from Egypt.

I doubt it happens but I’d love to believe that every time he takes off, Aces High blasts over the PA.


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