What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-06-06

June 6, 2010 Leave a comment
  • #ebz The Stolen River that flows into the Unterzee – the one they used to call the Thames – passes thr… http://fallenlondon.com/c/98148 #
  • I wonder how many of the people fulminating about Laws are aware that if he'd come out and claimed for sharing with partner, he'd've been… #
  • …entitled to *more* money than he actually got. In other words, if you think the incident involves nicking taxpayer money, you're a tool. #
  • Good piece from @caronmlindsay on David Laws' resignation: http://ht.ly/1RXwu #
  • Meanwhile, Danny Alexander is getting shit for not only not doing anything morally wrong, but not even breaking any rules…! #
  • In Hell Freezing Over news, Iain Dale is right about something http://bit.ly/90Ht6N (via @mattwardman) #
  • Today's Word Of The Day is 'knoblolly': http://www.google.com.au/search?q=knoblolly (via @echobazaar) #
  • This piece from @flying_rodent is scarygood: http://tinyurl.com/33ntmrd #
  • The #mining #supertax advert is annoying. If Rio Tinto and BHP's shares are hit because $ paid to govt, the losers will be in London not AU #
  • (for non-AU readers: the govt wants to impose mining royalties, which would be a Good Thing; mining MNCs pulling out all the PR stops…) #
  • Via @daveraybould this is interesting, if not necessarily accurate – the IDF's version of the #freedomflotilla raids: http://alturl.com/6tyn #
  • SABMiller in "desperate World Cup cash-in press release" shock: http://bit.ly/ayPjlZ #theyvebeenplanningitfor6yearsFFS #
  • It'd be annoying to be @Martin_Carr. When I go out with former workmates I'm still friends with, nobody says "PWC REUNION ON THE CARDS?" #
  • Land-of-the-free-tastic fact of the day: it's illegal for an American to boycott Israel http://bit.ly/bXhGYq (via @sunny_hundal) #
  • We've now got @flying_rodent's excellent Israel's Biggest Enemy Is Itself piece republished on LibCon: http://bit.ly/coEqmA #
  • Fact of the day: the #freedomflotilla was originally going to be called the French Flotilla, but Americans objected. #
  • WW3 FTW! RT @LeonJaeger Turkey says more ships will be sent to Gaza, escorted by its Navy: http://bit.ly/92mpYm #flotilla #
  • Aaagh, I knew I shouldn't've read Mad Mel's take on #flotilla before bed. THE STUPID, IT BURNS… http://bit.ly/aRWfwL (via @CathElliott) #
  • Excellent piece on the parallels between Israel and North Korea: http://bit.ly/b5QKvQ #flotilla #
  • 9 News cameraman provokes "angry Muslim" footage by racially abusing member of the public: http://bit.ly/cBYOuJ #mediafail via @sunny_hundal #
  • Israel/North Korea update: rightblogger Mr Eugenides's defence of Israel is "Ah, but NK is worse". Srsly: http://bit.ly/bxCK8Z #flotilla #
  • I'm being followed by @LunaParkSydney. I find the concept of being followed by a funfair a bit disturbing. #
  • Aagh, #ebz have erased 2 days' progress due to a server disaster. SAME AGAIN! http://fallenlondon.com/c/96236 #
  • Ooops – Chinese World Cup promotional campaign is not made of win: http://bit.ly/9gQHiM #
  • Gonna be about 45 mins late to meet @chrissiem. Oops. And it's entirely my fault, *and* I know she doesn't have a working phone. Am bad man. #
  • Salon.com having a mobile edition is good. But redirecting mobile users who click regular article links to the mobile homepage is STUPID. #
  • Forgiven for lateness. Hurrah! Now home and #ebz-ing, of course. http://fallenlondon.com/c/97628 #
  • Dear Nokia: if I've got someone's mobile and home numbers stored in my phone, *which one do you bloody think* I want to send an SMS to? #
  • Number of mass gun rampages under Thatcher, Major & Cameron: 1 each. Number under Blair & Brown: 0 #justsaying #
  • I wonder if all the people blaming BP for the Gulf spill are going to sell their cars and ride bikes, or if they're just hypocrites? #
  • (I'm assuming here the spill is an inherent risk of deep-sea extraction rather than illegal behaviour by BP based on available evidence) #
  • If you oppose deep-sea extraction, that's just fine – as long as you're clear that the oil *will* run out rather soon without it. #
  • Damn, the bloke drinking an espresso on the Citi (AUS) "in my world" advert looks like a smug prat. Note to self: do not be in his world… #
  • We are stronger than Guido: http://bit.ly/b7tbd8 (yay). MENSA, Miller, Mailer, Plath and Pinter were sadly left out of the methodology. #
  • #ebz meh. http://fallenlondon.com/c/99058 #
  • Re London's mayor, I've been deliberately avoiding saying intemperate things like 'fuck Boris' up to now. Fuck Boris: http://bit.ly/bqXKB4 #
  • Yes. Awesome: RT @howespaul: A fantastic and very funny ad on the Resources Super Profits Tax – pass it on http://youtu.be/H4PcQfz0MfU #
  • I was distressed by the news that the # of temporary AUS visas was going to be cut by 50% – until I realised they meant visa *classes*! #
  • Daily Mail "are you posh" test: http://bit.ly/bYw51X – surely q11-13 are just "not being ignorant", though? (via @sarabedford) #
  • Pleased to discover that the Palace Hotel in Coogee is c.50x better than the Coogee Bay Hotel. #escalatorwin #
  • Can someone send me an email explaining what the fuck FourSquare does/is for? #confused #
  • This will be fun. Looking forward to the fireworks -> RT @libcon Peter Tatchell to present Pope documentary http://bit.ly/9TTi3J #
  • YES! This: http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2791 #
  • Saturday night in with #ebz – oh yeah, I rock. http://fallenlondon.com/c/101611 #
  • BEST THING EVER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5qtoecVIo0 #
  • Worst article in ages: http://www.forward.com/articles/4184 – summary: "if you don't like Israel murdering people, you're an antisemite" #

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-05-30

May 30, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Haha, enjoying @BPGlobalPR – this is why having a real social media presence of your own is important… (via @Rooney83) #
  • I'm officially bored of factors driving premium product consumption. And it's bloody 9PM, and I'm not done for today yet… #
  • "The war may be staged, but the murder is real" #classicHoratioquotes #CSIMiami #
  • Boo! But g'luck. RT @jackschofield "after 25 years, I'm leaving the Guardian at the end of this month. I'll continue to write for Ask Jack." #
  • Watching a Kiwi doco about police – took about 5 mins to work out whether it was Aussie, UK or *other*. This describes NZ accurately… #
  • Some #ebz, then up early, then more work. Woo deadline week. http://fallenlondon.com/c/89488 #
  • If even half the Awl's take on Lost is right, I'm glad I gave up watching after a few episodes of season 1. Utter toss: http://bit.ly/cyKVjJ #
  • If true, I'm beyond comment. Tories are utter cnuts. RT @SamuelCoates Gary Newlove's widow, Helen Newlove, is being made a Conservative peer #
  • I don't support hanging, but I'd fully endorse it for the sadistic bastards in the CPS who brought this case to court: http://bit.ly/cBfgXN #
  • They're kids; they're playing a silly game; if you think that warrants a record as a sex offender, you are inhuman. (via @heresy_corner) #
  • RT @BBCLauraK Long term parly sq protester Brian Haw has been arrested <- @chickyog do I get points for this one? #
  • In other news, police confirm unicorns don't exist -> RT @libcon: Police finally deny England shirts were ever banned http://bit.ly/cJ4Z5g #
  • The Daily Mash is seriously on form re: the insane "kids playing doctors and nurses" show trial: http://bit.ly/aF6l6Y #
  • RT @intruth I had to quit my job manipulating the reproductive parts of flowers. I couldn't handle the stigma (via @msgracefh) #
  • RT @jtopper: I had no idea .jobs was a TLD. Research In Motion use it for their careers pages. http://rim.jobs/ Fnar. (via @dnotice) #
  • Work kinda done (for today). It's kinda late. Need an early night. #ebz and then that's it, as they say. http://fallenlondon.com/c/90931 #
  • Re anonymity for people accused of rape: worth noting that if LDs, Labour, PC, SNP and SDLP voted 'no' then it'd fail. #
  • Since Labour, PC, SNP and SDLP are likely to support 'no', it's worth lobbying your LD MP on this one… #
  • Speaking of insane laws, if you live in London it's probably worth reporting this to the Met to see what happens: http://bit.ly/c6V1wh #
  • This is aces: right-wing conservative Americans hate Muslims so much they've endorsed Sex & The City to annoy them: http://bit.ly/cGHDVh #
  • Really good explanation here of debt vs deficit vs cuts -> RT @jamesrbuk When chartporn goes wrong. http://is.gd/cpcrU (via @mudlarklives) #
  • WIN -> RT @ArmyofDave: Working on a book version of "The Human Centipede" in the style of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". Sleep well, kids. #
  • Report editing proceeding like a steam train, oh yeah. #ebz then bed, then more tomorrow, woo! http://fallenlondon.com/c/92465 #
  • Jesus. The crow outside my window is the biggest I've seen. It's the size of a cat. And it's ripping tree bark off with its beak #thebirds #
  • Just set the smoke alarm off, having forgotten about my toasts. Oh noes! #breakfastfail #
  • I blame the crow. #
  • What the hell? "Foster’s has not flourished in the wine business" – well, apart from Wolf Blass, Penfolds and Rosemount http://bit.ly/aDUomm #
  • #Fosters demerger makes sense – wine would sit better in global spirits group, beer with global brewer. But who'll buy at current A$ rates? #
  • Enjoying editing someone else's report about alcohol marketing. The "health claims" section is particularly fun. #
  • I have not laughed this much at a film review in quite some time: http://bit.ly/aEWDha #satc2 #
  • The Apple Store in Bondi Jn still has no roof. The 9AM opening tomorrow will involve a serious night's work. I mean, *really* serious… #
  • Vodafact of the day: a friend worked on voda.au's roll-out as an IT contractor – job was so hideous he quit not only Voda but IT contracting #
  • Now he fixes mates' computers for petty cash – but as he says, he doesn't want to kill them or himself, so it's a step up. #
  • Feel rubbish. Have work to do. If I was employed, I'd call in sick #freelancewoes #middleclassdisasters #
  • I think I might be in love with two women at once: my excellent girlfriend, and also DCI Tennison. Hope this is OK. #reawakenedkidcrushes #
  • I thoroughly intend to rely on this in court RT @Helzbels Have few pints and the speed limit's 95mph. Excellent. #
  • Erm, yeh. "Nobody in the UK is poor because of the dole, so let's abolish it" -> RT @Old Holborn: Unchaining the poor http://bit.ly/9nqUv7” #
  • This man *is* a real journalist: http://bit.ly/c7qRrf – respect. #
  • RT @sadbearhandbook: I completely misjudged what waterboarding in Guantanamo Bay meant. I wonder if I can get my deposit back. #
  • In case you were worried, just to confirm the Tories *are* unspeakable bastards: http://bit.ly/aazD5n #
  • Feel like grim death. Consoling myself with #ebz http://fallenlondon.com/c/94437 #
  • My weekend is made primartily of ILL and SLEEP. This is irritating. although hopefully implies a week ahead of WELL. #
  • If you think there's anything wrong with what David Laws has done, you're a massive prat. http://bit.ly/bpwuBq #teacup #
  • Also, the Telegraph are massive bastards for releasing the evidence now, not to mention raving homophobes. Fuck them. Go Laws! #
  • RT @rockeye It amuses me that there's always more Eurovision commentary in my Australian stream than there is in my UK stream… #
  • Post-weekend, post sick-bed #ebz catch-up time, yay. http://fallenlondon.com/c/96982 #
  • CROWDSOURCING: has anyone paid using their own (ie not work, and not self-employed tax-deducted) money for a FT/WSJ subscription? #
  • Based on Twitter replies re FT/WSJ, the Times model *may* be a bit less shafted than I thought. I'm still tipping "shafted", though. #
  • Shit! Red Bull bosses will not be impressed. Good news for Button and Hamilton though… #gp #
  • RT at my dad's txt: Not sure what is F1 equiv of Alex Fergie's famous "hairdrier" bollocking, but Vettel & Webber will shortly find out #f1 #
  • This is good -> Chris Dillow @libcon The David Laws paradox explains why I'm on the left http://bit.ly/czUVLZ #

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Fear and West Lothian

May 27, 2010 14 comments

It occurs to me that a major reason why a Lab/Lib coalition was a complete non-starter is simply that it would not have commanded a majority of seats in England, and the regional parties it would have required for support don’t vote on England matters.

Hence, it couldn’t have passed any domestic English legislation without Tory support. Hence, it would immediately have collapsed, and hence, it could never have happened in the first place.

Take-out: the West Lothian question is self-resolving, and a de facto English parliament already exists: there is no conceivable scenario under which a party or alliance without a majority of English seats could govern the UK.

Sure, formally (or, more plausibly given the UK constitution, ‘creating a tradition of’) taking away Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs’ right to vote on laws that are solely domestic English in nature wouldn’t be a terrible thing to do. But it wouldn’t actually have any benefits for anybody, either…

Quiz time, wahey!

May 27, 2010 5 comments

OK, so what links The Pit And The Pendulum, Richard Dawkins, and the Botswana national football team? The usual prize of a Simply Red album and a broken wireless router to the winner. Extra bonus points to be gained from suggesting the fourth clue.

Unrelatedly, which punk song contains the lyric “I’m looking for you, oh my sweetheart”?

Danny Finkelstein: not a journalist

May 25, 2010 2 comments

Rory Cellan-Jones has a good article on the BBC site about Murdoch’s paywall. Well, I say “good”; being on the BBC site and hence subject to Strict Impartiality Etc, it’s far too neutral about the paywall’s prospects of success (which are zero). But it’s informative.

Most informative of all is the final proof that Times associate editor Danny Finkelstein is not, in any meaningful sense, a journalist:

I asked Danny Finkelstein whether it bothered him that from now on none of his journalism would “go viral”, with the risk that he’d be left invisible on the sidelines as the online debate raged through news sites without paywalls. “No,” he insisted,”I want my employer to be paid for my intellectual property.”

In my current role as a freelance market analyst, I want my client to be paid for my intellectual property, because I write reports that are only of interest to the people who pay for them. Those reports can fairly be categorised as intellectual property, and my relationship with my client can fairly be categorised as one of mutual commercial advantage.

As a result, I tailor the reports I write to meet the client’s brief as closely as possible (having used my experience in the relevant sector to ensure that we can agree a brief that helps their commercial objectives). When I find information that doesn’t help achieve this, I don’t try to include it in the output I pass onto my client, even if it’s interesting – why would I? It doesn’t help the main goal, of ensuring my employer is paid for my intellectual property.

This, pretty obviously, is not journalism. It’s the opposite – I’m finding things out selectively, based on a commercial brief, and the things that I do find out will be kept secret and used by people who’re willing to pay for them.

My blogging (at least, the data/analytical stuff I do on LC, and the transport stuff that goes up here) is journalism – I find out new things, whether previously unknown or hidden in plain sight, and then try and disseminate them as widely as possible.

If, when faced with the choice of “shout as loudly as possible so that as many people as possible can hear what you’ve found or what you have to say” or “back the boss in his plans to make more cash by stopping people from hearing what you have to say”, you pick the latter, then whatever you may be, you’re certainly not a journalist.

Tories, speed cameras, and Voluntary Idiot Tax

May 24, 2010 6 comments

There are mild signs of upset at the Coalition opting to cut the number of new speed cameras. There shouldn’t be.

For one: speed cameras are, entirely, a voluntary tax on idiots. Most non-urban speed limits are far lower than the safe speed for the average vehicle on the road in question driven by the average driver; that’s a given. But if you know a road has speed cameras on it, and you don’t drive within the speed limit as a result, you either don’t care about not being fined, or are too inept to drive within the parameters laid down by the law. And if you don’t know a road well enough to know whether it has speed cameras, then you don’t know whether it’ll suddenly turn into something where the speed limit is actually the maximum safe speed.

But for two: the people who hate speed cameras and the way that they impede their slightly-faster progress to wherever they’re going (not the ones who actually get caught, but the ones who do know the road, drive slower-than-required, and wish they didn’t have to) have a reasonable utility argument: why should fairly nebulous claims about accident reduction – and all claims about speed reduction leading to accident reduction in non-urban areas without a pedestrian presence are fairly nebulous – take precedence over people’s time? After all, part of the economic case for high-speed rail consists of the time savings involved – surely we should take them into account here as well?

In short: of course the Tory-led government is going to cut speed cameras, because its support base consists of Tories and Clarksons whose primary concern is “getting there quickly”. Meanwhile, since the last government’s support base consisted of urbanites and people who wanted to raise more tax money from society’s moral dregs, of course they were going to support speed cameras.

If the anti-clampdown is focused on motorways and A-roads, then the real-world effect will be negligible, except that the tax burden will be shifted slightly from Mr Toads to bus-using Sparts. If it also includes mixed-use urban single-carriageways, then kids will die. Hopefully, the impact will be the former – in which case, all we can say is “party rewards its supporters at its opponents’ financial expense; world neutral”.

(note: *safety*-neutral. Obviously, shifting the tax burden from Mr Toads to bus-using Sparts will also tend to shift it from rich to poor. File under “well, yeah, check out the blue rosettes”).

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-05-23

May 23, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Wow, I managed to confine drunken lunacy to Skype last night – no visible online traces. #
  • Not another bloody ash cloud? Thor will, clearly, have his revenge. Hope they're gone by August… #
  • If you think teaching The Wire in university seminars is 'dumbing down', you're officially the dumb one http://bit.ly/a6j8rp #
  • #ebz The Starveling Cat! The Starveling Cat! Sits on your chest when you're sleeping flat! http://fallenlondon.com/c/81591 #
  • This is good: http://www.newscientist.com/special/living-in-denial #
  • Amused to see Lord Triesman forced to resign for saying things which *everyone knows to be true*. #
  • My gf has pointed out that I should contribute to #bandfoodpuns, but I can't actually think of any. Today is not a good day for me… #
  • Haha, #abbottfail – of course he's right, but *sheesh that was daft*… #
  • .@DMiliband @tugsandtost Forward not backward! And always twirling, twirling to victory. Sheesh, could you get any cheesier? #
  • Seriously, I've been out of the UK for a while; is this some kind of wind-up? http://bit.ly/a3hVMu – if not (probably anyway) I'm staying #
  • Quick blast of #ebz then bed, as I need to get up early tomorrow. Yes, me, sensible. Shocking! http://fallenlondon.com/c/82830 #
  • Because it isn't getting airplay on commercial radio #thatswhyyoursingle #isntsellingverywell #
  • I've never had to go to town in a hooded raincoat *and* sunnies before. Well, except when I auditioned for the Matrix #sydneyweather #
  • On the one hand, I'm sure the illumination of night CityRail trains deters crime and general badness. On the other hand, GRR TOO BRIGHT! #
  • Tea, #ebz and then bed. A good night. http://fallenlondon.com/c/84034 #
  • Comedy legal ruling of the day: http://www.workerscompensation.com/compnewsnetwork/blogwire/7887.html #
  • This is properly insane (via @bengoldacre) – really does make one feel slightly Littlejohn-ish http://bit.ly/9rVZJe http://dlvr.it/15ddb #
  • RT @chickyog Con-Dems to stop deportation of LGBT asylum seekers when 'at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution'. Bloody lefties #
  • Likewise. On reflection, DOH. RT @mePadraigReidy No one would have sex with me as a teenager cos it never occurred to me to ask them #
  • No. I literally can't. CITE? RT @juliebindel Can you believe the coalition intends to introduce anonymity for men accused of rape? #
  • See also RT @randomrightwingnutter Can you believe the coalition intends to give every terrorist a council house and gbp50k in benefits? #
  • Apologies @juliebindel – yes, they do. That's shitty. Links are brilliant, why not try them? p24 http://bit.ly/9xkg03 (link via @steff631) #
  • I think he misspelt "demonise" RT @libcon How to democratise Oxbridge http://bit.ly/bHolgX #
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide To Milton Keynes #lesserbooks #
  • The Reasonably Bearable Lightness Of Being #lesserbooks #
  • The Not Really Holy, More Just A Collection Of Old Laws, Stories And Proverbs Bible #lesserbooks #
  • For The Term Of Six Months, With Time Off For Good Behaviour #lesserbooks #
  • The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Embryo #lesserbooks #
  • Brief #ebz break http://fallenlondon.com/c/85846 #
  • The Diamond As Big As Quite A Big Diamond #lesserbooks #
  • The Rock Of Crack As Big As Quite A Big Rock Of Crack #lesserbooks #
  • Lib-left qn: why the fuck does the otherwise sane Dsquared have such a hard-on for the US federal justice system? http://bit.ly/cK5svw #
  • enjoying revolving restaurant japery with assorted sydney tweeps. Hurrah! #
  • A lovely weekend with @ChrissieM and crazy Sydney tweeps. Now a bit of #ebz before INFINITE WORK MONDAY http://fallenlondon.com/c/88214 #
  • Londoners are sunbathing. We've got the heater on. Them's the breaks, I guess. #
  • ACES! RT@catdonn "I was born, lucky me. In the land that I love. Though I’m poor, I am free" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4VdcMXVO_g #
  • ACES! RT @catdonn "I was born, lucky me. In the land that I love. Though I’m poor, I am free" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4VdcMXVO_g #
  • My blog is buggered, FYI – have asked the host about why: looks like their DB server is down, but I may have been spam-attacked again… #
  • Blog now fixed, within an hour of notifying the fault, on a Sunday. Mythic Beasts are ace hosts. #
  • "enormous social damage caused by computer misuse not recognized" > because it doesn't exist. Idiot. http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=4930 #
  • .@jackofkent PR campaigns that favour liberal outcomes are to be encouraged, surely? – PR's a tool for good or bad, not the enemy itself #

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Geeks miss point on Facebook

May 21, 2010 10 comments

A silly XKCD today, suggesting that because sensible non-ubergeek people didn’t back open source file formats in the early 2000s, they now have no right to be upset by Facebook’s Doing Great Evil.

There are only two problems with this analysis:

1) Facebook isn’t doing great evil, at all, and if you think it is then you are a paranoid loony.

Facebook is making money by aggregating user data and selling targeted advertising. Well, yes – that’s what it’s for.

In other news, newspapers exist to sell adverts (with the content being a regrettable but necessary expense to persuade people to read the adverts), and retail banks exist to sell loans (with interest on savings being a regrettable but necessary expense to allow the loans to be made [*], and running current accounts a regrettable but necessary expense to acquire customer relationships). I’ve also got some studies on ursine defecation and Papal religion, if anyone’s unconvinced.

I signed up to Facebook in full knowledge that the company would sell aggregated user data to strategic marketers, and would do its best to target direct marketing to me, to the greatest extent that data protection laws would allow it to. In exchange for which, I’d be provided with a useful social networking infrastructure for bugger all money.

It doesn’t spam me, it doesn’t pass on anything to strangers that I’m not happy for strangers to see. This is win/win.

2) The only people who think Facebook is doing great evil are the same people who wanked smugly on about non-open file formats in 2003.

Well, that one’s not entirely true. Stupid peasants also think Facebook is doing great evil, because they think it’s a tool for murderous paedophiles to groom victims for their doom. But they can safely be ignored.

The people who’re stirring up the current fuss about Facebook privacy, &c &c ad nauseam are total geeks. Half of them weren’t even on bloody Facebook in the first place; and the ones who were are doing ridiculous grandstanding by actually deleting their accounts (rather than tightening their privacy settings if they’re worried that friends might forward stuff to other people, or something).

Meanwhile, normal people continue to use Facebook, hopefully with a little more awareness that posting “lolz I am so wasted, gunna pull a sickie tomorrow hehe” where people who disapprove of wastedness and/or pulling sickies might be able to read it is Unwise.

This is all to the good.

[*] some UK banks during the 2000s thought they could cut out this expense via much cheaper wholesale funding. This proved not to be wholly correct.

This is not pikey, this is just *correct*

May 20, 2010 8 comments

From Popbitch:

In the 2004 European Championships a whole load of Jamie Carragher’s family went out to Lisbon to support him. Our favourite over-heard moment from the posh WAG hotel where they stayed, from one of his close relatives: “Call this a 5 star hotel? They don’t even have a kettle in the room!”

I hate, hate, hate hotels that don’t have kettles (or, preferably, like any hotel in the US – even one which only costs $50 and has a coin-operated bed – filter coffee machines) in the room.

Yes, I could get room service. But I want a bloody coffee now, because I’ve just bloody woken up, and I don’t want to have to get dressed before I drink it, and whilst I’m aware that the amount you’re charging my company would probably entitle me to let in your room service person naked without them complaining, that really isn’t my bag.

In conclusion: Scouse footballer relatives are better at appraising hotels than gay gossip columnists. Probably because the former actually have to get up in the morning.

‘Newspapers are doomed’ forecast of the day

May 20, 2010 3 comments

From a media expert:

The future of national newspapers is in doubt [...]: the purveying of ‘news’ (which is only one of a newspaper’s functions) is in several respects more interesting, more immediate and more dramatic on-screen. The greater part of all newspapers is given over to advertising [...] which keeps them alive, and to features of comment, information and entertainment which might just as well be found in magazines.

If national newspapers succumb [...] it may be a serious, even a tragic loss; but it is probable that local newspapers will continue to lead a healthy, useful and profitable existence for many years to come [...]

The astute reader will have guessed the prediction is from Some Time Ago.

It’s actually from the excellent, late Ruari McLean‘s Thames & Hudson Manual of Typography, published in 1980.

On the local press, he basically wins the prediction – it thrived, more profitably than the national press, right up to the point where localised Internet small ads nicked its main revenue stream. Expecting a 63-year-old print media expert writing in 1980 to predict Craigslist, Match.com, Monster and eBay would be a bit unreasonable.

But it’s interesting that someone so close to the trade (he was lead designer around this time for both the Observer and the Economist) called the outlook for national dailies so wrongly. While 2008 and 2009 weren’t great years for the print press, there’ll be a large selection of printed national papers on offer for many years to come, and the intervening 28 years were all ones that featured a thriving, albeit flawed, national daily print culture.

The rest of the book is also interesting. Obviously, in its own right, because of its excellent examples and advice on how to lay out words (of whatever sort), and descriptions of current and historical printing methods.

But also, because it was published by a near-retirement designer right in the middle of the time when hot metal typesetting was being replaced with computer-based phototypesetting, and before the advent of desktop publishing, it’s a strange mixture of things which are still absolutely relevant and things which are absolutely obsolete (my favourite example of the latter is the advice for every jobbing designer to buy a telex machine to allow instant written communication with clients).

This may be partly why Mr McLean got the national newspaper story so wrong.

In 1980, the newspaper industry was still based on hot metal typesetting, despite it being the most obvious example of a business that would’ve benefited from instant computer-based phototypesetting and offset litho printing, because of the utterly malign influence of the print unions [*]. Magazines, meanwhile, were printed in sensible places using modern technology.

It was only Rupert Murdoch’s willingness to fight a sustained battle to avoid printing his papers using Victorian technology that broke the influence of the print unions. This allowed the other papers to move over to computer-based offset litho, and hence the colour-based, photo-based, rapid-layout format we see them in today.

Without a proprietor who was pretty much an evil bastard willing to lose far more money than he had to gain to prove a point, the UK national newspaper industry would have ended up stuck on black and white Linotype letterpress at an insane cost right up until it died. At which point, Mr McLean’s thesis would’ve been proven.

Update: the Guardian’s Peter Robins comments. Well worth a read.

[*] I suspect this is one of the reasons the press in the UK trends right-wing, despite being made up largely of natural liberal-y media folk. At the time today’s editors were junior reporters, the print unions lived up to absolutely every change-and-efficiency-hating, restrictive-practices-loving, company-bankrupting, general-utter-bastard stereotype of 1970s and early 1980s trade unionism.