On Jimmy Savile

October 13, 2012 1 comment
Lolita poster

Waiting for you, Jimmy…

If only Vladimir Nabokov were alive at this time. The BBC could ask his opinion about Sir Jimmy’s antics.

That said, Bill Wyman’s still around, isn’t he? I know he’s more into older artefacts these days, being interested in archaeology and selling metal detectors and all, but I’m sure he could provide a few interesting anecdotes about the time when he was interested in uncovering fresher meat than Roman Republic Silver Denarius coins.

Service has been resumed…

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Sorry for the prolonged break. This has been caused by an unprecedented – and to me, unaccustomed – lengthy stint of  freelance work, complicated by a paroxysmal fit of laughter brought on by reading a Polly Toynbee article in the Guardian, which caused me to suffer complications to an old war wound and led to me being laid up for about a month or so.

I’ve recently noticed a lot of pingbacks to my blog from over a year ago about the Christchurch earthquake and the Guardian’s reporting on it (http://louseandflea.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/the-guardian-newsblog-and-the-death-of-journalism). Has this become some part of a journalism course or something? I’m nearly famous…

Coming up: my thoughts on 24-hour TV news. Give me a day or so to think out my thinks on this.

The anti-Leveson backlash begins!

March 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Lord Justice LevesonWell, it was only a matter of time.

The tedious, long-running, press-bashing, minor-celeb tufty hunt that is the Leveson Inquiry has finally wrought a backlash.

And leading the charge are the lefty-libertarians at spiked, which has launched The Counter-Leveson Inquiry.

In his article announcing the launch, spiked editor (and Telegraph blogger) Brendan O’Neill notes that ones re-opening the inquiry on Monday, Lord Leveson mention he found ‘publicly expressed concerns’ about the inquiry ‘troubling’.

O’Neill comments:

The most remarkable thing about Leveson’s admission to feeling troubled by public criticisms is that, sadly, there has been very little public criticism of his showtrial of the tabloids. You could count on one hand, or at a stretch two hands, the number of journalists and politicians who have dared to question the right of one judge to marshal celebrities and coppers to the cause of redefining the ethics of the press.

Quite so. There has been the usual drooling over the attacks on the Murdoch tabloids by the more totalitarian-inclined of our “liberal” lickspittle media – The Guardian, The Independent, the BBC etc – but the rest of the mainstream media has generally cowered in the corner, with only the Mail‘s Paul Dacre putting up any semblance of a fight in what is really a kangaroo court.

And it is a kangaroo court. Witnesses line up and grab their allotted 15 minutes of fame – or, the case of faded celebrities and failed politicians, to grab another 15 minutes of celebrity – making whatever allegations fits their agenda of vengeance, outrage, paranoia and shamelessness. There is no forensic cross-examination of these allegations such as would occur in a court of law, either criminal, where the criteria is beyond reasonable count, or civil, where the criteria is the balance of probabilities.

Instead, they are met with gentle questions eliciting their feelings, impressions and thoughts more appropriate for a student counselling session than a formal, quasi-judicial inquiry. For many of the witnesses, this is true nirvana: not only do have a spotlight of a softer, more flattering hue cast upon them, they get a free ego-massage thrown in too.

One troubling aspect of the Levenson inquiry that O’Neill doesn’t comment on in his article – strangely, since it’s one of his hobby-horses – is that by almost solely attacking the tabloids, this is really just another extended prole-bash. The tabloids cater for a sizeable readership who loves celeb gossip; some of the tabs catered to this demand by nefarious means, by illicit phone-hacking or paying cops for tip-offs of celeb shenanigans etc. Of that there’s no doubt.

But hang on: during the Leveson recess, we had the unedifying sight of the usual suspects – the aforementioned Guardian, Independent, BBC etc – drooling over “hacked” documents “proving” that the right-wing US Heartland Institute, which takes a robust anti-man-made global warming line, along with many other activities, was plotting to use the untold millions it gets from Big Oil to foil pro-climate changee scientists by “dissuading teachers from teaching science”.

The fact the central “strategy” document was a crudely cobbled-together fake and that the genuine documents – which were blandly routine meeting reports that hardly showed Heartland wallowing around in Big Oil bucks like Scrooge McDuck – had been obtained by fraud by pro-climate change activist, Peter Gleick, who has since confessed to the phishing, though not to the faking.

That they had tacitly supported and thereby endorsed illegal activities because it suited their news agenda in this instance did not seem to faze then usual suspects. Indeed, the Guardian even ran an extraordinary piece by The Ethics of Climate Change author James Garvey in which he said:

Was Gleick right to lie to expose Heartland and maybe stop it from causing further delay to action on climate change? If his lie has good effects overall – if those who take Heartland’s money to push scepticism are dismissed as shills, if donors pull funding after being exposed in the press – then perhaps on balance he did the right thing. It could go the other way too – maybe he’s undermined confidence in climate scientists. It depends on how this plays out.

So: the ends justifies the means, eh? But only if it’s the Guardian’s ends, it would seem. It certainly doesn’t apply to those filthy red-tops’ ends. Some may call that moral relativism. I call it rank hypocrisy.

But don’t expect such high-minded shenanigans to get even a mention at Leveson. It’s the tabloids which are in the firing line, and while it’s them, the usual suspects will happily cheer the inquiry on.

But O’Neill is surely right to note that whether they are active cheerleaders or cowering curs, mainstream journalists are oblivious to the bonfire which is being built under their feet:

It is alarming that, in a country where the poet John Milton demanded freedom of the press more than 350 years ago, and where many other writers and activists subsequently fought tooth-and-catapult to expel state forces from the worlds of writing and publishing, so many should now acquiesce to an inquiry which gives a judge and his chums the power to tell the media what its morals should be.

O’Neill ends his call to arms with another fiery quote from Milton which I urge you to check out for yourself. Because whatever you might think of their views on other topics (which I myself have a love/hate relationship with), on this issue, the spiked gang is definitely on the side of the angels.

Movies will eat themselves

March 2, 2012 1 comment
Telegraph story about the making of Psycho movie

Dear Lord, why are they doing this?

Listen to this: they are making a movie about the making of a movie.

In this case, the movie concerned is Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s pioneering slasher classic from 1960. Scarlett Johansson is to play Janet Leigh, who starred as the short-lived Marion Caine, Anthony Hopkins is to play Hitch and Helen Mirren is to play his wife and collaborator, Alma. It has not yet been announced who will play Mother’s corpse, though the role could give Sean Penn’s flagging career a much-needed lift.

This raises the question: Dear Lord, why?

Anyone who has spent any time on a film set as an observer knows that film-making is a mind-numbingly tedious experience for those not directly involved. Even the making of a three-minute pop video – just the shooting of which often takes up to a week or more – is hardly filled with the jump-cut, flashy excitement that ends up on MTV or Viva.

The Telegraph quotes Variety magazine as saying the makers of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho think they’re on to something “because it will concentrate on a specific untold story in the life of the director”.*

Yeah, right. What would that “specific untold story” be, do you think? Maybe that Hitch didn’t actually direct Psycho, or any of the other films bearing his name, but they were all really directed by the Earl of Oxford, or Walt Disney or even the painter Francis Bacon.

Might it have something more to do with the self-absorbed navel-gazing of some of the more conceited Hollywood types (and there are plenty of those) who think movie-goers are as fascinated with the tedious black arts of film production as film-makers are themselves?

With luck, the renowned “Curse of Psycho” will strike this production as surely as it struck Gus Van Sant with his vanity project, the doomed frame-by-frame remake of Psycho in 1998.

Further upcoming movies:

Evelyn Waugh and the Writing of Brideshead Revisited

Jack Vettriano and the Painting of The Singing Waiter

Phillipe Starck and the Designing of His Unusable Lemon Squeezer

* Actually, I couldn’t find that quote on the linked Variety story, so perhaps the Telegraph that bit up.

Leveson: wrap it up

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Today I watched John Prescott appear giving “testimony” to the Leveson “Inquiry into Media Ethics”.

Prescott. “Ethics”?

Last week it was Cherie Blair. Cherie Blair? Ethics?

Time to wrap up this media-lawyer circus.

Am I the only one  who considers the “star” witnesses appearing on BBC News-24 etc at the Leveson enquiry tend to be rather faded stars who once quite famous, but are no longer so? Are they seeking, as faded stars often do, to add lustre to their less then lustrous persona. Hello,  and fellatio to you, Hugh Grant!.

They also seem to be people caught doing naughty things. Why is their testimony so insipid? Is Leveson, basically, a government-approved tufty hunter? I rather fear he is.

Categories: Uncategorized

Polly’s forecast for your Sun this Sunday

February 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Oh dear. Polly Dutt-Pauker does not like the idea of the Sun on Sunday at all.

Murdoch launches Sun on Sunday

Guess Rupert must be doing something right…at last. But please, spare us the Yellandist “isn’t this boy who’s been forced to dress like a girl by his mad parents just toooo cute” stuff, will you?

WEATHER: It is currently 16-deg C in Tuscany, misty, but with a sunny day with low cloud promised for tomorrow. Forecast for SUNDAY: 15-deg C, with 90 per cent chance of grumpy frosted clouds and wild, violent outbursts of tacks, razorblades and hellfire, giving way to  scattered servants and free-ranging, scudding interns. A low-level depression named MARR descends over an unknown Tory MP who doesn’t go to church. Scattered things. MONDAY: Settled boredom, with John Humphreys tweeting Alan Rusbridger about how awful the weather from Italy has been on Today (lowlights repeated ad nauseum on BBC News 24).

Twitter journalism

February 22, 2012 1 comment

Via Charles Crawford comes this interesting infographic thingummy about the rise of iPhone journalism from frugaldad.com

Infographic about mobile phone photojournalism

While I think Mr Crawford is over-egging it a bit to say all this means “goodbye photo-journalism” – really outstanding photo-journalism requires much the same high level of technical skill, a “good eye” and luck as it has always done, whereas iPhone journalism really requires minimal skill and maximum good luck in being in the right place at the right time – I think Frugaldad’s comment that the huge strides being made in smartphone technology, combined with their interconnectivity with social media websites such Facebook and Twitter, make such phones a formidable weapon in the journalist’s arsenal.

But a word of warning: as Riyaard Minty of Al-Jazeera comments, the citizen photo postings of the uprisings in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and now Syria are “the primary lens” through which these events have been brought to the world’s attention – “primary”, as in “first”, not (as some befuddled editors of national newspapers and 24-hours news channels seem to think) the “only” lens.

Because just as a bunch of random tweets and Facebook messages thrown together do not a news story make, a bunch of iPhone photos from the scene of an ongoing news event, while immediately gripping, do not necessarily tell the whole story. Context is everything, and it requires a skilled journalist to pull together all the disparate, if related, elements together into something like a coherent whole.

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