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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Media and journalism

Tuesday April 15 2014

I love this, from AndrewZ at Samizdata, commenting on this piece by Natalie Solent, which quotes a couple of particularly demented pieces of writing in the Guardian, about cupcake fascism (this phrase should never be forgotten) and about the horrors of tourism.  (Natalie has been agreeably busy at Samizdata of late.)

Says AZ:

The online edition of any newspaper that isn’t behind a paywall relies on advertising to generate income and this depends on maximising the number of page views. The simplest way to do that is to publish outrageous and provocative opinions that will attract links from elsewhere and start a blazing row among the regular commenters. The great liberal newspaper of old is now little more than a group blog that trolls its own readers for advertising revenue.

No link from here to the original pieces, about cupcake fascism or tourism.  Oh no.  BmdotCOM is not falling into that trap.

Now that I have read the rest of them, I can report that all the comments at Samizdata on this posting are pretty good and worth a look.

Friday March 21 2014

Scientific American:

The skeletons of six cats, including four kittens, found in an Egyptian cemetery may push back the date of cat domestication in Egypt by nearly 2,000 years.

The bones come from a cemetery for the wealthy in Hierakonpolis, which served as the capital of Upper Egypt in the era before the pharaohs. The cemetery was the resting place not just for human bones, but also for animals, which perhaps were buried as part of religious rituals or sacrifices. Archaeologists searching the burial grounds have found everything from baboons to leopards to hippopotamuses.

BBC:

Three policemen in Pakistan guarding the prime minister’s home have been suspended for negligence after a cat devoured one of the premier’s peacocks, it seems.

It seems?  Well, did it or did it not?

UPROXX:

This Japanese gum commercial makes me wish I had a super fluffy gigantic cat to help navigate the horrors of public transportation and carry me around, avoiding traffic and other pedestrian suckers who don’t have adorable cat chauffeurs. Then I remember that if a cat that big existed, it would probably just maul me to death, ...

Guardian:

Why are there so many cats on the internet?

The problem is that they are asking the wrong question, which should not be “Why cats?” so much as “Why not dogs?” And the answer is that dogs are trying too hard. When a dog gets in a box or hides under the duvet or wears a funny hat, it is because he is desperately trying to impress you – longing for your validation and approval. When a cat does one of those things, it is because it felt like the right thing to do at the time. And it usually was. It is cool, and effortless, and devoid of any concern about what you might think about it. It is art for art’s sake.

This, at any rate, is one of the theories (of which there are an awful lot) about why content related to cats seems to gain so much traction online.

Maybe.  I guess that’s part of it.

The original reason for my Feline Friday cat chat is that cat chat on the internet, at first only at inconsequential blogs such as this one but now everywhere, illustrates that the number one impact of the internet is that there is now a new way to be amused, and cats are amusing.  The serious political impact of this is that with the internet it is easier to concentrate on what you consider amusing, and to ignore what people who consider themselves to be more important than you consider to be more important.  This really ticks them off.  Which is nice.  The internet puts politicians, for instance, in their proper place, on the sidelines.  Cats may or may not be important, depending on how mad you are, but they are amusing.

The willingness of the big old Mainstream Media to tell frequent cat stories, as they now show and do, illustrates that these organs have now accepted that they no longer control the news agenda.  If the people of the world decide that it is news that an angry 22-pound cat that trapped a family of three and prompted a frantic 911 call has been sent to an animal shelter, then news it is, and the big old media now accept this.

Thursday February 27 2014

imageAnd here is a photo I took yesterday.  I once thought that these Evening Standard headlines would by now be a thing of the quite distant past, but they are still with us, for the time being anyway, along with the Evening Standard itself, which has survived being given away and as of now shows no sign of disappearing.

There is something charmingly antiquated about the word “swoop”, isn’t there?  This swoop took place - when else? - at dawn, yesterday morning.

Yes, welcome to Operation Octopod.  Truly:

Detectives set up a specialist team which worked in secret for months to gather evidence against the gang in an inquiry codenamed Operation Octopod. Most of the 200 officers involved in the raids were not even told of the targets, only given the addresses they were raiding.

This sounds like it might eventually become quite a good story.

Interestingly, this Evening Standard story goes out of its way to say that the family being arrested have not been named.  But the link to the story contains these words:

couple-held-in-north-london-as-two-hundred-met-officers-stage-adams-family-swoop

And later they changed the headline above the story on the website, to include the word “Adams”.  And indeed, it seems that the arrested family really is called Adams.  Expect the phrase Adams Family Values to crop up a lot in the next few days and weeks.

And in a few years, another movie, about London’s own Adams Family and their dastardly deeds.

Tuesday January 21 2014

As I said in the previous post, my talk about digital photography at Christian Michel’s last night went well, in the sense of me feeling it went well, and it seeming to be well received.  I occasionally put my sheets of paper down and extemporised upon some point I was making, but mostly, this was it.  No links, no photos, no extras.  (They may come later, I hope, but I promise nothing.) Just the bare text that I read out, complete with all the errors of grammar and spelling, of fact and interpretation, that may or may not be present:

I have given several talks in this 6/20 series, but until now this has been because I have had both questions and answers to offer to the assembled throng.  I have had theses to present, clutches of facts to pass on.

This time I don’t know the answers.  I merely want to know the answers.  What is the impact of digital photography? What is it doing to us?  Since fixing this subject matter with Christian I have made, I think, some progress in arriving at answers, but only some.  Tonight I expect to make further progress.

Luckily, for my purposes, we have all been alive throughout the period of digital photography’s mass use, and have observed it in action, even if we may not always have wanted to.  Has anyone here not taken a digital photo?  Just as I thought.  (It actually says that here.  And this.)

*****

I will start my remarks by quoting a remark made by an American whom I overheard about fifty years ago, on the Acropolis in Athens, the place where what is left of the Parthenon stands.  I was there trying to do some sketching, a skill I never got any good at but spent a few years attempting.  He was doing pictures with his seriously pre-digital camera.  As soon as he had finished photoing, he wanted to leave, presumably to get to his next photoing place.  But his family were enjoying the Acropolis in the morning sunshine.  Said he to his family: “Come one, come on!  We’ll look at it when we get home!”

This outburst captures a great deal about what people object to about digital photography, but it also reminds us that photography, by Everyman as opposed to by professionals, is nothing new.  Digital photography is partly just the intensification of a process that has been in place in our culture for well over a century.  But it is more than that.

Friday December 27 2013

6000:

Post pictures of cats, they said. Seriously, if you’re not going to be able to write much, and a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of a cat is worth, well, Six Thousand. Do it.

So, with that in mind, here’s a picture of a cat, ...

I also found myself referring recently to the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I think that one of the consequences of digital photography is that this is probably no longer true.  Not unless it’s a very good picture.  And to be fair to 6000, it is a pretty good cat picture.  Also, he was not saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, merely referring to the notion, by saying “if” it is, as an excuse for a quota cat.

One of the things that used to make pictures count for so much was that everyone knew what a bother it was to contrive them.  Now, everyone knows that contriving pictures has become very easy.

The reason I can never make myself care about just shoving hundreds of snaps up on the internet using something like Flickr, and why I prefer to put them here (or here), in much smaller numbers, is that I prefer my pictures to be accompanied by words, words that explain what I am trying to say with the pictures, or what I think is interesting about them.

The same principle applied to the old newspaper photographs, where this phrase presumably originated.  A picture may then have been worth a thousand words, but there were usually also plenty of actual words attached.

Often, the pictures here are pictures of words.  If following a link does not appeal, consider only the previous two postings.

Thursday December 05 2013

And not just any old telly.  BBC1, The One Show, no less, watched by millions. I was and I am impressed.  Watch Elena Procopiu in action 25m30s into it, here, while it’s still there.  (For future reference, this was on Tuesday December 3rd.)

Elena was born in Romania and did a piece to camera about Romania and about Romanians in England, entirely in a Romanian accent until right at the end, when she said in her regular English voice that lots of Romanians have been here for years.  Many Romanians have already seen this performance, on the www.  Some, who missed the bit at the end, were surprised that someone who has been in England for so long still has such a strong Romanian accent.  None said that the Romanian accent was not a proper Romanian accent, which is not that easy to get exactly right, if you no longer have such an accent.

Thursday November 21 2013

Time for an I-told-you-so moment.

I told the Australians not to rouse the kitten:

Darren Lehman may have made a bit of a mistake, when he called Broad a cheat for not walking when Broad was clearly out and should have been given out, and said that Australian crowds should have a go at Broad in the Ashes series this winter in Australia.  Lehman was only joking, but it was a joke he may regret.

But they went ahead and roused the kitten anyway.  Here is George Dobell reporting on Day One of the Ashes:

Rubbished, ridiculed and reduced - the front page of one Australian tabloid dubbed Broad a “smug pommy cheat” on the morning of the game - England, and Broad in particular, arrived with abuse ringing in their ears.

Broad, it was claimed by an Australian media stoked by their national coach, was little more than a medium-pacer whose disregard for the rules shamed him, while England’s batsmen were running scared of Australia’s pace attack.

But instead of wilting in the cauldron of the “Gabbatoir”, Broad appeared to revel in the occasion. Indeed, he even admitted he found himself whistling along as a large section of the crowd chanted “Broad is a w*****.”

This may be no surprise to the England camp. As part of their exhaustive preparation process - a process that was ridiculed at the start of the tour when sections of the Australian media were leaked details of England’s nutrition plans - England’s players were analysed by a psychologist and Broad was one of three who, in his words, “thrive properly on getting abuse”.

“It’s me, KP and Matt Prior,” Broad said. “So they picked good men to go at.

“It was good fun out there. I think I coped with it okay. It’s all good banter. Fans like to come, have a beer with their mates and sing along. I’m pleased my mum wasn’t here, but to be honest I was singing along at one stage. It gets in your head and you find yourself whistling it at the end of your mark. I’d braced myself to expect it and actually it was good fun. I enjoyed it.”

Australia 273-8.  Broad, so far: 20 overs 3 maidens 65 runs 5 wickets, including the first four, and including the one truly class act in the Oz top six, Clarke.

Monday October 21 2013

Alex Singleton has sent me an advance print-out of a book he has written about how to do PR.  I have reached page 59, and am so far very impressed.

When I read a book of this sort, I like to read about relevant personal experiences, as well as Big Lessons and Grand Principles.  That way, you are more likely to be convinced that the Big Lessons and Grand Principles really are as good and grand as they may merely seem.

So I particularly enjoyed this bit (from page 59):

When I got my first column in 1994, in a newsstand computer magazine, I had no idea what I was doing. But it seemed like I needed to get some stories, so I wrote to all the relevant companies and invited them to send me information about what they were doing. Not all of them replied - those that failed to respond were PR idiots. Some of them wrote to me saying that they would add me to their press release distribution lists - they were amateurs.

Then some guy called Quentin got in touch. His company, Accountz, sold products by mail order and it was miniscule - just him and his wife. But he wrote me a personal two-page letter (this was before email was commonplace) explaining how he had a Big Idea to defeat the major players in his sector.  Unlike some of the other companies, he had no PR agency - but he had a story. And during the 15 issues I wrote that column, I could always rely on him
to take my calls and give me a good quote. When I upgraded to bigger-selling PC titles, including the market-leading ComputerActive, I kept on writing about his company. Today, his products are sold in PC World, Currys, AppleStores and Staples, and as I type this he has just made a successful exit from the company, passing it onto an investor.

What worked about that PR-journalist relationship is that Quentin - perhaps unwittingly - had good personal brand. He never tried to force a bad story on me and never wasted my time.

Alex has told me he is in the market for typos, and I think I see another blemish, to add to the two I’ve already told him about.  Shouldn’t “onto” (final line of para 2 there) be “on to”?  Not sure, but I think I’m right about that.

More about this book when I have finished it.

Friday October 04 2013

I enjoyed reading this review of McBride’s book, by Guido, not least because it is a reminder of how capably Guido can do posh.  His blog is deliberately tabloid, and he greatly admires the tabloid style.  But, as I learned when he was still at the stage of occasionally contributing stuff to the Libertarian Alliance, way back when, this is not the only style he can do.

I just did a bit of searching for LA stuff he had written, and found my way to this (scroll down to page 8), from the turn of the century.  It’s about how he wants to switch to a kinder, gentler libertarianism.

Monday September 23 2013

Today I did something I very rarely do these days.  I bought a newspaper:

image

It was The Times of May 24th 1940.  Originally it cost 2d, which means two old pennies, from the days of pounds, shillings and pence, which I remember very well, because they lasted into the sixties.  Today, I bought it in the local gay charity shop in Churton Street, for £1.  There were quite a few more copies of The Times from that time still on sale there, most of them from late in 1939.  £1 each.  How long they will last, who can say?

Patrick Crozier, do you want me to get more copies for you, if they are still there?

Patrick Crozier’s talk at my place last month, based on The Times in 1913, was superb.  He turned the talk into six Samizdata postings, which you can find by going to the last one, and following the links back.  Highly recommended if you’ve not read them yet.

LATER: Twenty more copies.

Sunday September 01 2013

So yes, this time last week Goddaughter One and I went on a photowalk in the Hackney Wick area.

She sent me this photo that she took, of me photoing:

image

If you want to make an old man look bad, have him bend down.

This, with much rotating and cropping to avoid total embarrassment, is the photo I was taking:

image

I think we can agree that her photo is uglier, but more interesting and amusing.

Here is a photo I took of her:

image

If you want to make a young woman look good, have her bend down.

As for the photo that Goddaughter One was taking, well, I don’t have that.  In general, though, she does this kind of thing quite often, e.g. when she spots a plastic bag floating in the canal.  Commonplace, even ugly, objects can become very beautiful when photographed with a lot of skill, such as Goddaughter One possesses.  (She is a professional, having recently had one of her photos on the front cover of the RIBA Journal.)

So, in the absence of the exact photo that Goddaughter One was taking when I took that photo of her last Sunday, here is a canal effect that I photoed, and would have photoed more had I realised, as I only did when I got home, how amusing the effect was and is.  I refer to the way that a certain sort of water weed growing on the surface of still water (actually water that the water weed itself makes still) can make that surface look like dry land.

This effect is greatly enhanced when there are ugly things that are very light floating on that surface, with the water weed somehow seeming to push those objects upwards to the point where they appear simply to resting on the top of the surface, just as if it really was dry land:

image

Were I a bit cleverer with my camera, and were my camera also a bit cleverer, that could be an award-winning photo of the sort they print out and put in art galleries.  Well, that’s what I think.

Monday August 05 2013

My friend Alex Singleton dropped by the other day.  He often does, after or between appointments that bring him near to my home.  He has a blog, which I recommend, and Alex himself recommends blogging as a good way to spread ideas or sell products.  I sort of knew Alex had a blog for a quite a while, but did not really register this fact.  I am now digging backwards, and finding things like this, from someone called Harold Burson:

The term communications has become synonymous with PR but this does a disservice to our profession by making it tactical … The best term for what we do is public relations.

I recently read a book where “PR” meant photo reconnaissance throughout.  It described a different world entirely from ours, in which misdirected photographic efforts could easily cost your your life.  But yes, good to encounter someone who is not ashamed of what he does.

Too few practitioners have even heard of the legendary figures of PR, such as Ivy Lee and Sir Basil Clarke, let alone read about them. But it does mean that those who put the time in to study how PR works – practically, not academically – quickly shine.

That’s Alex himself.  There are, throughout his blog, regular references to and quotes from old dead guys, another who is frequently mentioned being David Ogilvy.  Why reinvent the wheel?  A particular theme of Alex’s thinking is that the new social media don’t render all the wisdoms of the PR and advertising past obsolete.

I like how Alex writes.  He prefers short and clear sentences to longer and wafflier ones, clear words to the vaguer words so loved by PR-ists.  Everything he writes exudes confidence in his ability to help enterprise do their PR better.  Which would explain why he is not afraid to have as his latest posting an admiring piece about Rudolf Flesch.  Quote:

Flesch writes: “while we don’t need so many words any more to express our thoughts, the words we do use carry a much heavier load of ideas… as far as ideas are concerned, our sentences are usually much longer and fuller than those people wrote two or three centuries ago”.

The danger, he says, is that “our more heavy-handed writers don’t care much for the modern short sentence either; and so we get prose that consists of overlong sentences packed to the brim with long, overloaded words”.

And that, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with so much material that comes out of big organisations today.

You don’t put stuff like that up if you fear that your earlier postings will then be scoured by envious rivals, successfully, for great gobs of longwinded nonsense.

Alex, just like all these old dead guys, dresses smartly, as he explains in this posting, i.e. more smartly than he did in this photo of him (by me with me also in it) here.  I particularly like that one.

Talking with Alex also helped me to think through an enterprise of my own that I am now contemplating.  He supplied some very helpful ideas about how I could do this more easily and effectively.

Saturday May 04 2013

Lunchtime O’Booze is the name given by Private Eye to a certain vintage of Fleet Street era (i.e. when they really all did work in or near to Fleet Street) journo.  One of these (now long retired) characters was staying with me earlier this week, kipping down on my sofa-bed to be precise.  Tony now lives in France, but he was over here for a few days, to participate in a lunch, with a dozen or more of his old Fleet Street cronies.

I met up with Tony on Sunday evening, and we dined out, very well.  Thanks to my twiddly screen, I was able to take photos of him like this, with the camera resting in the middle of the table, and me just looking down at it:

image image image

Tony looks rather like one of those South African type villains in The Saint, which I have been watching lately from time to time, waiting for the IPL to start on ITV4.

Next day, Tony departed for the lunch.  Ring me when it’s over, I said, maybe we can do something in the evening.  Nine hours later, Tony rings to say he’ll be back soon, and eleven hours later he is.  I feared drunken disruption.  Which I would have survived.  Tony has been very hospitable to me over the years.  But the evening ended very pleasantly.

To give you a further idea of what kind of lunch it was, here is a limerick, which Tony brought back from it:

An Argentine gaucho named Bruno
Said I’ll tell you something I do know
Girls are just fine
And boys are divine
But a llama is numero uno

And here is a photo, taken by someone else with Tony’s phone:

image

The big guy - a very big guy indeed - in the middle used to play prop forward for the Harlequins and is now a wine correspondent, the sort of bloke who has a special table in his home for drinking guests under.  The ultimate oh-stay-a-bit-longer-and-have-another-one bloke.  I think the guy on the right drives new cars for a living, in such places as the south of France, and then writes about them.  Certainly, someone of this kind was involved.

Do not ask men like this to drink and drive.  They just might do it.

Friday February 08 2013

And the first thing I photoed yesterday was newspaper headlines, about Britain’s Envy-of-the-World NHS.  Those first three were literally the first three snaps I took yesterday, and the last one was photoed later, at London Bridge Station, more about which later, I hope.

Read, and be amazed:

imageimageimageimage

I honestly cannot remember a day when Britain’s NHS has ever, ever had a worsE press than it had yesterday.  (The same stories had been all over the telly on Wednesday evening also.)

I hope to write at greater length at Samizdata about these dramas, connecting it to my Alpha Graphs stuff, but promise nothing

The basic idea being that a nationalised industry collapses not when it merely starts deteriorating, but only when it is deteriorating so fast that a switch to the free market, although horrible, would be no worse even in the short run.  And of course massively better in the long run.  But it’s the short run that matters because it is during that short run that you or your elderly loved one dies, through being left out in a corridor or some such horror.

Libertarians are prone to assume that things like the NHS are untouchable, merely because people continue to swear by them when they are getting only somewhat worse.  Brainwashed fools!  They will never see sense!  But they are seeing sense.  And then suddenly, to the amazement of libertarians, they do suddenly see sense.  Actually, just a bit more sense, along with the sense they had already been seeing.

See also: collapse of the USSR.

The NHS has a bit of a way to go before it folds, because people are still at the stage, as you can tell from these headlines, of thinking that sacking the Boss and installing a New Boss would turn things around.  But, any year now ...

When you want to write a big old piece about Something Important, it’s not a bad idea for a blogger to rip out a little piece about it in the meantime, in a single figure number of minutes.  That at least gets the meme out there and gives it a chance to propagate, even if a bigger piece at Samizdata would do that better.

Thursday November 08 2012

Incoming from Michael Jennings:

Now, back to serious stuff, the Australia v South Africa test series starts in just under an hour. If Australia win this series they get the number one spot back - possibly a little prematurely, but I will take it if it happens. And in truth, if they win this series I think they will deserve it as much as anyone else does.

Yes.

I am now tracking this here.

As I said to Antoine in that election chat we recorded, this is the kind of cricket match I would have liked to follow twenty years ago, but couldn’t.  Now, I can.

The new Surrey captain is already off the mark.