Thursday, 31 December 2009
- an intelligence officer overseeing a flawed national security issues;
- a City fat cat nursing a huge annual bonus;
- a civil servant caught up exclusively in party political services?
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
In her Heart Felt project she has invited local people to write expressions of emotion on tag label as to what is going on in their lives and attach them to different types of heart-shaped images. The work is to be collected by the end of January 2010 and collated as an art installation and book. A website is being designed.
This engagement of non-artists in creative pieces has been a feature of the past year, notably Antony Gormley's fourth plinth project in Trafalgar Square. I hope the response to Jan's project is equally productive and rewarding for everyone involved.
Monday, 28 December 2009
The scuppered terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to Detroit was not foiled because of computer efficiency, as Umar Faroukh Abdulmutallab managed to get close to morbid success having passed through customs in Nigeria and Amsterdam. He featured on lists of suspected activists, was denied a Visa to the UK, and was shopped by his own father to the US Authorities.
Intelligence is only as good as the foresight of the people receiving it. Even the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack that brought the USA into World War II might have been averted if intelligence officers had picked up the correct message in among the white noise.
Databases do not predict, they only hold information about what has passed. The security services need to work out new forecasting strategies for second-guessing enemy groups next moves without killing off the general public's ability to use planes, boats and trains with too many counter-terrorism moves.
Databases are useful, however, for finding out the 'current situation'. When databases go wrong, where staff shortages force time-poor workers to rush updating records, any time savings are a false economy as information decreases in accuracy and value. In any organisation, database work is a frontline service.
Sunday, 27 December 2009
- David Tennant (Doctor Who: The End of Time, Hamlet, The Christmas Bear, QI, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, The Catherine Tate Show: Nan's Christmas Carol, The Graham Norton Show sole guest, the BBC One Christmas 2009 ident); and
- Rob Brydon (Would I Lie to You? clippings review of 2009, Gavin and Stacey, The Gruffalo, QI, The One Show, Breakfast Show guest, The Graham Norton Show guest, Big Fat Quiz of the Year, Steve Coogan: The Inside Story).
I reckon David Tennant takes it by a long quiff, as Rob Brydon has been a guest on other people's shows more often than not. The BBC seem to have been treating Mr Tennant's departure from Doctor Who like Andrew Flintoff's 2009 farewell tour of English Test grounds during this year's Ashes series.
Mr Tennant has been everywhere, and now apparently he is trying to make it big in the USA, witness a recent pilot show for a legal series Stateside called Rex is Not Your Lawyer, and a general invitation to 'come and hire him' to LA producers.
Saturday, 26 December 2009
So, what the downside. This medical breakthrough is based on Valium. Doh! We have just spent nearly fifty years breaking society's addictive dependence on benzodiazepines like Valium. When these drugs first appeared on prescription they were trumpeted as a kind of wonder drug, in the same category as Thalidomide and Prozac. And look where those medicines got us as a nation.
Also, with medical breakthroughs of this type, the human-nature factor is never taken into account:
- People are going to abuse this new drug, witness the UK's binge response to 24-hour drinking culture.
- Can you overdose on the new drug? How would people know the composition of what they were drinking?
- What if the antidote pill doesn't work with large intakes of the new drink?
- Will the new drug make users drowsy?
- What's to stop informal 'designer-drug chemists' playing around with the molecular structure of the new drug to creative something narcotic and potential lethal?
- What's the legal position where car crashes occur after people have been advised it is safe to drive after drinking the new brews, especially where drinks have been spiked as a prank?
- What happens to existing drink-drive campaigns where alcohol continues to be drunk? Would driver reaction times not be affected by people consuming the new drug?
In short, social policy on responsible driving would be a mess. Companies manufacturing alcoholic drinks will lobby hard to strangle the product at birth. MPs who indulge in a tipple won't pass the necessary legislation. And, even if the new drink does exactly what it said on the can, would it be in society's best interest to encourage a product whose sole function was to render its customers drunk, however temporarily. This new drink would be a Trojan horse rather than a gift one.
PS: The Daily Telegraph's scoop is not exactly straight off the press, it's been recycled from the Daily Record story of 16 November 2009. The Torygraph has simply been storing the piece up for consumption during the post-Christmas hangover. Professor David Nutt was been sacked as a Government drug adviser before the article appeared: the alcohol-substitute drug seems to be one of Professor Nutt's day-job projects at Imperial College, London.
Friday, 25 December 2009
There will also be millions of children who woke up to Santa bearing gifts this morning who will have nightmares tonight inspired by The Master. Lots of hand-holding, landing lights left switched on and favourite bedtime stories being read tonight, and that's just the parents.
This got me thinking just how much paper got used at Christmas 2009 in the UK. One supplier in Kent has had an 18 per cent increase in orders for wrapping paper, making a total of 35 million metres (enough to cover 9/10ths of planet Earth) and their Christmas cracker orders are up 21 per cent to 26.6 million (to say nothing of the paper hats and awful puns). The Royal Mail estimate that 700 million Christmas cards will be sent via the delivery service this year, and the paper usage includes envelope and card for each item. If an average card and envelope uses, say, 0.5 metres then that's 350 million metres. Maths has never been my strong point, but that's an awful lot of paper.
So, Christmas 2009 in the UK is like Christo wrapping the world several times over, and that's just from one country. Maybe the dominant green campaign needs to stop people wrapping presents (at least with printed papers) as an awful lot of trees must be being sacrificed for the annual splurge, rather than simply using recycled paper to prepare gifts for family and friends.
Thursday, 24 December 2009
We live in warped times. Some commissioning editor, somewhere in the USA will devise a reality-TV format for them to host (with all proceeds going to charity), as Richard and Mayumi showed (twisted) ambition, resolve, ingenuity, and a talent for event PR.
Probably on Fox Reality TV, natch.
Brittany Murphy is the latest case. She was not hugely famous, but had acted in some well-known movies (e.g. Clueless, 8 Mile). From a distance it appears that the ambition to be famous is not matched but the reality of being scrutinised by the flashmob generation. This is not a new phenomenon: Sir Tom Courtenay once told Michael Parkinson that he was uncomfortable with fame and that all he'd ever wanted to be was a jobbing actor.
So how can be blogosphere be tempered when it comes to the modern trend of wanting to own celebrity souls? Here are some thoughts:
- Some celebrities seem to have a hinterland (e.g. George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Meryl Streep, John Cusack, Scarlett Johannsen, Renee Zellweger) in which a private life is possible. The less we really know about the stars (despite any intrusive speculation), the more glamourous they become. Perhaps part of the curriculum at drama and fame schools everywhere should be how to stay grounded under provocation from journalists during PR blitzes for new movies and how to ignore all the gossip sites. Hard for wannabe stars to do when they need the spotlight to advance their careers.
- How about a grassroots campaign for real movie stars along the lines of CAMRA, the campaign for real ale? Perhaps call it CAMERA, the campaign for real entertainment artists? This group could campaign for the public's right not to know everything about media and entertainment performers' private lives. It could promote traditional ideas about stars sharing creative talents with the public and showcase good causes celebrities promote without cynicism. It could seek improvement in the quality of story-telling so that performers can stretch and challenge their abilities for the benefit of audiences and their own careers. It might even look to educate audiences in what makes for a satisfying cultural experience.
The campaign for public libraries in 19th-century Britain improved adult literacy and cultural awareness, and the people responded with wanting to better themselves. In Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1960s, the Hays Code was a draconian, prescriptive set of rules that had the unforeseen benefit of forcing movie-makers to improve their story-telling.
In the digital age, it is all too easy to become media-illiterate through the sheer volume of information and resort to the easily digestible formats presented by commercial media seeking high audience ratings (e.g. reality television, high-concept movies). And higher audience expectations may give stars the opportunity to enjoy private spaces beyond the tabloid public gaze.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Monday, 21 December 2009
- A thousand flowers will bloom, and there will be no consensus about which song stands the best chance, especially as many of the promotions will be stealth campaigns by record companies trying to ride in on fans' enthusiasm.
- Forewarned is forearmed. Simon Cowell will have contingency plans for dealing the 'threat' at Christmas 2010. His generosity of spirit to the Morters may be due in part to their demonstration of how to use social networking media very efficiently. They will have given him ideas.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Saturday, 19 December 2009
Friday, 18 December 2009
Thursday, 17 December 2009
- The reported family yacht trip has presumably been put on ice indefinitely;
- In times of trouble, people hunker down with cartoon comfort-blankets (presumably Disney/Pixar rather than Fritz the Cat);
- Whatever Tiger does to handle the catastrophe from now on, there'll be people already pitching the revised biopic to Hollywood, plays to Broadway and even Woods the Opera to impressarios, executives and commissioners of all shapes and sizes. The first of these shows will hit the cultural fan before the end of 2010;
- The Tiger Woods Story (1998) will never be reshown on television in its current form;
- Before going back to the golfing day job, as he surely will, Tiger will make at least one self-effacing appearance on Saturday Night Live and one (and only one) come-clean confessional (without the gory detail) on a talkshow format: perm one of an Oprah special, a David Letterman late-show chat (as our Dave has had his own public marital problems), or an interview with Sir David Frost;
- Fox News will flay Tiger with salacious gossip-mongering (the latest being an educated guess that Mr Woods will start his rehabilitation at a sex-addiction clinic). The channel will also soon try to link the Woods' marriage implosion with speculation about Barack and Michelle Obama's marriage.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Monday, 14 December 2009
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Friday, 11 December 2009
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Monday, 7 December 2009
- criticisms of public and private sector pay;
- accepting the need to pay the going rate to get the best people;
- opposing industry job losses;
- promoting 'efficiency in the workplace';
- acknowledging the need to work for the good of mental health;
- setting targets for worker expertise;
- encouraging university applications;
- bemoaning lack of skilled trademen and women; and so on.