Archive for the ‘internet’ Category

55 plus 40: Keepers

Posted: 26 September 2019 in 55 plus, internet, social media
Tags: , ,

I got snowed under with something else today, and need to pop into the Apple Store this afternoon for an appointment. (I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my iPhone XR but I’m getting it checked out just in case.)

So, here’s some stuff from my ‘Keepers’ photo album, with no context at all. I’ve somehow got hundreds of odd pics, some I’ve taken, odd stuff from the internet I’ve collected.

Here’s just a tiny sample.

Something else tomorrow.

Enjoy.


 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

  


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

(For part the second, click here; for part the third, click here)

I’ve been going back and forth on this one. But last night’s Panorama programme about antisemitism inside the Labour Party tipped the balance.

No, I’m not going to write about that today, neither the programme itself nor the details therein, save for one small reference towards the end of this post; maybe soon, but not today.

Some years ago, I wrote a piece about antisemitism in the UK, and how it’s risen, and how it’s not uncommon – some would aver often – for criticism of Israel (used as a metonym for its government, PM, military, laws, politicians) to ‘cross the line’ into overt antisemitism.

Now, whenever this does happen, whenever antisemitic criticism – not criticism itself, but overtly, blatantly, antisemitic criticism – is highlighted, you can guarantee two responses:

  1. “Oh, you just don’t want any criticism of Israel!”, and
  1. “You’re making up false allegations of antisemitism to prevent any criticism of Israel; you always do that!”

How best to respond?

Bollocks. Oh, ok, yeah, that works.

Unfettered, unmitigated, unreserved… bollocks.

(The second of those responses above is known in the UK, among the Jewish community as ‘The Livingstone Formulation’, since it’s been deployed by Kenneth-of-that-Clan for decades.)

I don’t know how often it has to be said but apparently at least once more is necessary even before I read the comments to this piece: criticising Israel [its government/politicians/polices/military] isn’t per se antisemitic. How could it be? It’s no more inherently anti-Jewish to criticise the actions of a Jewish state than it’s anti-Christian to condemn the UK government – of a still formally Christian country – for the ‘Bedroom tax’, or to criticise its Prime Minister, or to criticise the actions of the UK’s military.

BUT… if that criticism is expressed using the same words, the same lies and/or the same imagery, as has been used for literally centuries to demonise Jews, yeah that’s antisemitic, Israel references or no.

So what do I mean, when I say the ‘same imagery?

Do I mean ‘similar’? Nope, I mean the same. The same hooknosed caricatures of ‘zionists’, the same ‘gorging on blood’ images of Netanyahu (a politician I loathe, not that it should make the slightest difference) that have been used to demean, disparage… demonise Jews via the Blood Libel for centuries.

This entry, and some others in the run going forward, is to address the lie, the flat out lie, that using antisemitic imagery – based upon age old antisemitic tropes – is somehow, magically, not antisemitic if you replace “Jews” with “Zionists” or “Israel”.

Because it is [still] antisemitic if you do that.

Yes. It really is.

You want to criticise Israel? Its government, that government’s policies, its actions, its statements?

Go right ahead; I might even agree with you on the criticisms. I might not, but hey, there’s lots of criticisms on any subject with which I agree… and some I don’t.

Seriously, go right ahead and criticise away. One small thing, though: Just don’t do it antisemitically. It’s not a lot to ask, I believe. Just don’t be antisemitic. Don’t express your criticism, your condemnation, by using the same canards, the same myths, the same fabrications, the same images, used to condemn, excoriate, and falsely disparage Jews for hundreds of years in some cases, longer in others.

Don’t do it using a decades’ old, sometimes centuries’ old, antisemitic trope. Don’t do it with classic antisemitic themes, antisemitic imagery or antisemitic canards.

If you’re going to do that, then, yeah, folks – me among them – are going to justifiably say, “yeah, antisemitism”. Note that: justifiably.

So… in some blog entries over the remainder of this run, this place is going to give examples of antisemitism that – in some cases pre-dating Israel’s existence – criticise Jews and then show exactly the same modern criticism, only with “Jews” clumsily replaced by “Zionists” or “Israel”.

Ok then. Let’s get started.


Let’s start with: Cephalopods

I don’t know what antisemites have against cephalopods; I really don’t. They seem pretty harmless to me, although an octopus’s three hearts do really freak me out, I’ll be honest.

But cephalopods (the octopus, the kraken, the squid) have been used as a symbol of “Jewish power” by antisemites for over a century.

It’s used, I guess, to indicate, both the alleged secret way Jews have supposedly infiltrated everything from any established previously ‘clean’ system – the media, banks, the press, democracy – to a named county, to even a planet. (No, you didn’t misread that. Yes, I said a planet.)

And also, I guess again, that Jews somehow cling on to things?

I dunno.

Logic and facts are not two things antisemites are that fond of, I’ve found.

(Someone I know wondered a while back where all the smart, intelligent antisemites were, because they only came across “fucking idiots” online. I have some sympathy with that view, but I think that, dark humour aside, it’s giving the ‘smart’ ones far too much credit.)

But anyway, take a look at the first set of pictures below.

They’re old, really old, and are explicit in their Jew hatred.



Hitler – yeah, be fair; you knew he’d be along sooner or later – made plain his views on Jewish power, metaphorically using… oh, you guessed.

“If our people and our state become the victim of these bloodthirsty and avaricious Jewish tyrants of nations, the whole earth will sink into the snares of this octopus; if Germany frees herself from this embrace, this greatest of dangers to nations may be regarded as broken for the whole world,”- Mein Kampf

The next pic comes from that time….

(Sometimes they start with an octopus and I dunno, figure a spider is better… or they can’t draw tentacles?

But yeah, a hook nosed, caricature of a Jew. (And of course the spider has links to ‘vermin’ and lots-of-people-are-scared-of, which may form another post in the run.)

But the pics above are just half a dozen of literally thousands, if not tens of thousands, of examples in history.

Oh, let me quickly address one apparent confusion among some:

Two pics:

The one on the left (on top if viewing on mobile) is the Israeli Flag. The one underneath (on the right) is the Star of David I wear around my neck, a 21st birthday present. The former is the symbol of The State of Israel. The latter is a symbol associated with Jews and Judaism back to the days of the Bible. In Hebrew, it’s not called a Star of David, but a Magen David (pronounced Moggain Dovid), a Shield of David, because that’s what was painted on the shields of King David.

The two share a six pointed star. The former has details not on the latter: a white background, a specific colour, stripes above and below.

If you use the magen david without all of the above…? Don’t pretend you’re referencing Israel; you’re not. You’re referencing Jews. And you know it.

Here’s another, more recent, picture.

Recognise anything?

Now, those who use, promote and post the pic would almost certainly – do, in fact – insist it’s aimed at Israel (the AIPAC in the background would ostensibly seem to agree.) And it may well be ‘aimed at Israel’… but it’s not only aimed at Israel. Which is the point.

It’s using age old antisemitic imagery used for centuries to attack Jews as well, and the people who created the image and those who promote it, distribute it, send it around, use it on social media, defend it… they know it means Jews.

But surely they don’t always know?

Let me introduce you to Kayla Bibby who posted the attached on social media.

OK, it’s the facehugger from Alien movies, but it’s just the latest iteration. Hey, look, there’s a Star of David… not on a flag, not with a white background, not with stripes above and below.

Huh. How about that?

But did she know that it means ‘Jews’?

Well, for once we have a concrete answer to the question. The image comes from a far right website which was crystal in its clarity that yes indeed it was about Jews. The article it accompanied described Jews – not zionists not Israelis, but Jews – as “parasitic” and said they were to blame for “financial heists of entire nations”.

Ah, but how was Ms Bibb–

She contacted the site and specifically asked permission to use it.

Ah. Yes, ok then.

Ms Bibby actively sought this image out, requested its use… from a site which specifically said it was about Jews.

(By the way, the Labour Party first said that the image wasn’t antisemitic, and that neither was she, and chose to not even suspend her; they merely issued a “reminder of conduct”. Only after outrage at this decision – and her MP, Louise Ellman, raising it at a parliamentary party meeting – was she eventually, over the original protests of the leadership’s office, suspended.)

If you use those images, any images like them, you don’t get to say they’re not antisemitic. You just don’t. Not without lying. Because those who use it know the images are antisemitic.

That’s why they use them.

Two final points to make today.

So how can I criticise Israel without being antisemitic? Glad you asked. There are loads of good sites out there on the subject; I like this one, as it happens: How to Criticise Israel Without Being Anti-Semitic.

Secondly, and following on from the above, it’s so easy to criticise Israel, and its government, ministers, military, etc., without being antisemitic, that when folks do insist on using antisemitic canards, tropes, and imagery…

…one is forced to conclude that it’s the antisemitism that’s important to them, not the criticism.

More images, a different trope, next week.

But something entirely different, however, tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I know most people reading this already know who I am, and all, so you can skip the rest of this post if you’d like. But what with the re-emergence of this blog for the seventy-five day countdown to 1st January 2017, I seem to have attracted a few recent new visitors to this blog and to Twitter.

Been a while since I’ve done this, so why not update it?

Why not indeed…

Something specifically for Twitter followers… It’s been a while since I’ve done this, so it’s probably worth doing if only for future reference.

So, a quick non-Frequently Asked Questions.


So you’ve decided to follow me on Twitter or read the blog. Thank you! I’ll try to make the experience an enjoyable one.

So, don’t take this the wrong way, but who are you? I just added you because [other Twitter user] suggested it
I’m Lee “Budgie” Barnett; I’m British; I live in Ham, near Richmond. I used to be involved in the most peripheral of ways in comics, and ran a successful panel at UK comics conventions with Dave Gibbons entitled hypotheticals. Ask your parents about it; they may distantly remember it.

I write. I’ve written for radio, tv, the occasional comic book, an online novella, and several hundred 200 word slices of fiction as part of The Fast Fiction Challenge, including 150 stories written in 150 days during one stint. For a few years, I did The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction, you can read them in the link you just skipped past. Similarly, in 2013, I wrote twenty-four of them in twenty-four hours for Comic Relief. You can read all about them here.

Many of these stories have been collected, and several collections have been published so far; you’ll see me promote t hem every so often when I want some cash to expose new relders to them. Volume 1 of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing 180 tales, was published in 2009. Volume 2 of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing another 200 stories, was published in late 2010.

There’s also the ebook of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, available at all good email addresses, i.e. mine

“Budgie”? Why “Budgie”?
It’s a story you used to have to get me very drunk to tell… but after too many tellings, I stuck up the story here.

You use your name as your icon. That’s a bit weird.
I know. It is, isn’t it? David Gibbons designed the icon when we wrapped up hypotheticals. I started using it then and never really had a reason to change.

You’re hiding what you look like! Are you one of these anonymous trolls I’ve heard about?
Naah, not really. But it’s a perfectly understandable assumption. Here, this is what I look like: A Life In Pictures – December 2015 update. I update it at the close of the year.  

Anything else?
Yes, I have a son; he’s 21. (I know, I don’t look old enough, you’re too kind.) His name’s Phil, but for some reason his mother insists on calling him ‘Philip’. He gets mentioned every so often, usually complete with some indication of the pride and love I feel for him. He’s studying at Aberystwyth University right now, and probably in lectures. Or shooting music and gig videos with his fiancée, Rheannon. 

His mum’s name’s Laura; she’s one of my favourite people on the planet. We got divorced last year though we’d been apart since 2005.

What kinds of things do you blog about?
A mixture of fiction, my thoughts on various matters important and unimportant, occasional links to other people’s blogs or news reports, photos, videos… oh the usual. There are some standards, however; a Saturday Smile post, occasionally some politics, very occasionally a rant about something that’s pissed me off. And I’ll post something on 9th January every year in memorial for my late brother who died at 38.

You lost your brother? Shit, man, I’m so sorry.
That’s ok; you didn’t know. Here’s what I wrote about him this year.

You said you write about silly things as well though, yes?
Oh yeah. Here’s something about The History of the World. You’ll like it.

What kinds of things do you tweet about?
A mixture of utter nonsense, references to interesting posts – either on Twitter or their blogs – that other people have made, replies to questions, and occasional bursts of frustration.

You’re not going to overload me with your tweets, are you?
Oh, I hope not. Many of my tweets are replies to other people, so if you don’t follow them as well, you’re fine.

That’s not all of them, though, right?
Well, no.

So you’re going to follow me back, right?
Not always, no. I tend to follow people that I know for the most part. But engage me in conversation, comment on the blog, and it’s quite probable that I’ll add you. I’ll usually take a look at your recent tweets though, and may not… If so, sorry in advance, no offence intended.

You’re not going to get pissed off if I unfollow you, are you?
I’ll be furious and… no, of course not. Plenty of reasons why people unfollow me: I tweet on stuff they’re not interested in, or they followed me out of curiosity and that curiosity has been well and truly assuaged. Mostly, though, people unfollow me because they’re bored by my feed. That’s ok. Welcome to Twitter. 

I’m new to this Twitter thing. What do you use to tweet from? Come to that, how do you blog?
 Come to that, Almost without exception, I’m tweeting from either my iPhone or my iPad. If so, it’s usually from the Tweetbot app. I prefer it for all sorts of reasons to Twitter’s own app, but on the rare occasions I tweet a poll, it’ll be from the Twitter app. For blogging, I use the WordPress app.

Are you anywhere else online?
Other than here? Yes, I do a daily braindump – a couple of hundred words or so on whatever strikes me – on a tumblr entitled going cheep. NoI’m not on Facebook.

So what’s your Twitter account again?
I’m on @budgie

Not exactly a thousand, not even nearly, but as in “a picture tells…”

I’ve never been happy with how I look. Sure, as a child, I looked cute, but then most children look cute in pictures. Some don’t, but most do, especially since the photographs that parents put up online are those in which their children do look cute. I’ve often said that my lad Phil (unaccountably known to some as ‘Philip’) was lucky that Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist when he was a toddler, as his utterings would undoubtedly have been foisted upon you as friends of mine are wont to do with their own. The very best of these, though I may biased are @ThingsGretaSays, @StuffAstridSays and @tallulahlouise.

I did have Livejournal from 2002 and yeah, there was the odd (some very odd) photos of him put online; most of the pics, though, were of the ‘awwwww’ variety, often as part of a birthday entry, emphasising how he’d grown, and changed over the years.

      

And since I’m approaching – not quite there folks, but it’s getting closer – the time when I’ll update my “A Life In Pictures” post, I’ve been thinking of visual images today.

Particularly, I’ve been thinking of the single image by which people choose to represent themselves online: their avatar, icon, profile pic. Call it what you will; I’ll stick with ‘Twitter pic’ for Twitter and ‘profile pic’ for anything else, I think. Whether it’s facebook, twitter, Blogger, WordPress, or any number of message boards, everyone has the opportunity to use an image to represent them… or of course to not use an image and stay with the default image. On Twitter, it’s an egg. (I don’t know why Twitter uses an egg, unless it’s some kind of reference to an unborn bird, and Twitter’s brand logo is a bird? I suppose that makes as much sense as any other explanation.)

If you do have the default ‘egg’ as your twitter pic, it’s generally seen as a sign that either you’re a newbie and haven’t got to grips with Twitter yet, or that it’s a deliberate attempt to remain anonymous so you can be as offensive as you like. After almost eight years on Twitter, they’re fair assumptions.

Most folks I follow on Twitter fall into one of three categories where their Twitter pic is concerned (I’m excluding brands who – fairly obviously – use their own brand’s logo):

(1) the account uses a picture of themselves, the person who operates the account. Most journalists use a headshot, often the headshot that accompanies their pieces, in print or online. Many of my friends do the same. I don’t think anyone can justifiably object to this as a working principle. It combines the advantages of an explicit statement that this is who I am and of I’m standing behind everything I say. Occasionally, folks – John Rentoul is a prime example – will use a headshot, but a photoshopped one in an amusing or self-deprecating way. Again, perfectly reasonable.

(2) the account holder is a writer or artist; in these cases, many of them will use a pic of a piece of work they’re promoting or of which they’re particularly proud. Takes a while sometimes to get used to the new pic when they swap for a more recent work, but again, completely understandable.

(3) something entirely unrelated to them; an image they just… like. I would say I’m puzzled by this but I’m not really; it’s often less about what they’re showing, and more about what they don’t want to show… i.e. their own face. Now, there people are in the main not attempting any form of anononymiuty; their bios will usually show links to their blogs, their personal sites (where there often are pics of themselves). They just don’t want to have their face as their Twitter profile pic. 

I guess on Twitter, I fall into that third category, but with an element of the second, and even a smidge of the first (at a real stretch).

As I said above, long ago, I had a Livejournal account and I had the oppportunity to use for each blog entry one of up to several hundred images; I had this option, but rarely used it. Very rarely; I used a headshot for the main blog entries; the headshot changed every year or so when I had a new one I liked. For posts specifically about comics, I used a drawn headshot of me that appeared in a friend’s comic book. For posts specifically about an online column I wrote an image I created (later to see fresh life as the main icon for the going cheep tumblr account I maintain.) And for posts about hypotheticals, I used the image designed for it by Dave Gibbons, my collaborator on the panel.

See, many years ago, I ran (from 2000 to 2011) with Dave a panel entitled hypotheticals at the then main British comics convention. If you know all about it, fine; if not, well I may write about it further at some point. The first year’s panbel didn’t have an image. When we were invited back the following year, not having a logo seemed somehow wrong, so I created one, rough and ready. It did the job but wasn’t exactly… erm… good. Dave then came up with a superb logo, and that was the image then used to promote the panel; on t-shirts, on bookmarks, online. 

After we did the final panel, Dave sent me an amended version of the hypotheticals logo, just as a thank you for the work I’d done on the panel over what turned out to be 12 years (neither of us expected it to last anywhere near that long). And it’s that logo I now use for most of my online life; it’s the image I use for Twitter, for my ‘main’ tumlr account, for this blog and for most if not all of the few message board to which I still belong. It’s become even more relevant the past few years since I left the world of financial director-ing with the inevitable consequence that the proportion of people who know me by any other name has fallen through the floor.

So, yeah, it’s budgie and that’s a pic of… budgie.

I don’t hide what I look like, even though I’m still not exactly delighted with how I look in photos, but then again, you’ll all soon see how I look in photos now, how I looked in photos as a child, and then again how I look(ed) as an adult soon, won’t you…?

2015’s update to A Life In Pictures – coming soon (whether you like it or not.)

Some years ago, I posted something online that I believed to be true. Told to me by someone I trusted, it turned out not only to be false, but maliciously so. I hadn’t lied or at least there was no intention to lie nor even mislead, but I’d at best – at best! – propogated an untruth.

It didn’t take long for the real situation, the truth, to come out, and I felt completely shitty. Not only had I abused the trust of people who relied upon me not to lie, I felt inherently shitty simply because I’d posted something that wasn’t true. While it didn’t immediately terminate the friendship I’d had with the person who told me, the event without doubt damaged it, and we were rarely in contact afterwards. Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I spoke to him, and I’ve no idea what he’s up to now.

The only person who was offended by my posting, though, was the then editor of Comics International, Dez Skinn. I knew Dez slightly, from online conversations, but certainly not as well as I came to know him later on. And I was told by some people who did know him well that he was both surprised and genuinely offended by the information I’d posted.

There was only one thing for it. As well as a public apology in the forum in which I’d posted, I called Dez and apologised to him. The wording I used was one I’ll regret to the ends of my days. After exchanging small talk, I said “I’m genuinely sorry if I caused offence…”

I didnt get any further before Dez interupted with “IF you caused offence? If…”

I took the point – I knew he was offended, so why the hell use such a mealy-mouthed combination of words?

Anyway, I apologised for causing offence, and for posting it in the first place, and Dez accepted both, with good grace.

We got on well over the next few years, to the extent that Comics International actually paid for the room hire for the second and third Hypotheticals panels in 2001 and 2002. (It always surprised people – though I don’t know why – that we had to pay for the room hire for the first few panels, until the con abolished room charging for panels.)

But here’s the thing: apologising for the offence caused isn’t enough, which is why I added the apology for the act as well; without that second part, it places the blame on the person who’s been offended, as if the original statement was fine and they’re just being oversensitive.

And we see that all the time. Livingstone tried, last week, before Corbyn got him to unreservedly apologise. His original semi-apology was to say he was sorry “if [Kevan Jones] was upset”.

It’s the same thing as saying “I owe you an apology” and then never delivering that apology. I appreciate that in these litigious days, an apology about something that’s caused measurable – and potential or actual financial – harm is problematic. But that’s not what I’m talking about. No, of course there’s no right not to be offended, and freedom of speech is never freedom of consequence arising from that speech, but it seems to many that apologising is [seen by equally many as] weakness, when I’d argue that it’s not. Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t think it’s necessarily strength to apologise, any more than it’s strong not to cheat in a sport.

Admitting you fucked up is just the right thing to do.

There’s a comedian I admire, and just as importantly, like. Very intelligent fella, very intelligent comedy. He’s one of those I’ve met via Mitch Benn only to discover that my liking of his comedy is at least as much matched by my liking for him personally. Always nice when that happens. He fucked up on Twitter a while back, before we’d actually met; he tweeted an urban myth about religious Jews that shocked, offended and genuinely angered me. And I wasn’t alone. Jewish comedians, non-Jewish comedians, lots of people leaped to correct him, some politely, some… less so.

Within a couple of hours, he’d deleted the tweet, said he’d been a gullible fool, publicly apologised and hashtagged it #iamanidiot.  I don’t know a single person who regarded the apology as anything other than genuine, or treated the accompanying embarrassment otherwise. Couple of months back, I did it again. Fucked up online, I mean. I’m not a huge fan of Peter Hitchens. About the only nice thing I can say about him and his views is that he’s clear as to what he believes and isn’t concerned in the least about telling you, or how it comes over. As my late grandmother would have said, “what’s on his lung is what’s on his tongue”.
That said, I came across a quote he’d made and used it online during a discussion. Hitchens saw it and asked when he’d said it, as it didn’t represent his views at all. I went back to my source material and… yeah, I’d not realised that the site I’d used was a satirical news site.

Ah…

So I deleted the tweet, apologised to him directly and in a public tweet. OK, so far, so… ok. What genuinely surprised me was Hitchens’ response. He genuinely couldn’t have been more understanding. “It happens”, was his general attitude, but he was very pleased at the apology and thanked me publicly for it, saying that misquotes and mistatributions online were common, while apologies were not.

I’m not suggesting that we should apologise more often for causing offence. In many cases – though not all by any means – those who proclaim offence are perfectly willing to offend others and then claim ‘freedom of speech!’ when their statements are protested.

But, apologising for online fuckups, misattributions, untruths? Yeah, we should all do that more often. How about we start with “every time an apology is owed” and move on from there?

There aren’t many blogs I read on a ‘whenever they’re posted’ basis. Most of my reading is ad hoc; I see a link on Twitter or on my feedlist of choice, I click on it, read it and am amused, shocked, horrified or – sometimes – bored. Those last tend to be the rarest not because I’m particuarly discerning in my reading, but because recommendations from people I respect tend not to bore me.

That’s not a guarantee, of course, but it’s uncommon at the very least. 

But there are two blogs I read regularly, definitely on an ‘as posted’ basis. Both are written by very intelligent people with whom I disagree about any number of things, but their writings – esecially when they’re blogging – never cease to interest me.

One’s a long-standing friend, so long-standing in fact that our friendship predates the birth of our respective children, both of whom are now in their twenty-first year of life. (Oh gods, they’re 20, boss…) His name is Warren Ellis and his daily, or near as dammit, brain dump is called Morning, Computer. It was the inspiration for going cheep but as you’d expect, it’s far more sensible, far better written and far, far stranger.  (Oh, and Warren has a weekly newsletter which is unique among such things in that I actively look forward to it arriving. Warren will no doubt take this as proof that I am doomed. You can subscribe to Orbital Operations here.)

The other is someone whose brain and intelligent comedy I’ve long admired. I’ve only met him a couple of times and briefly then which is a pity, since he’s one of those people I suspect I’d get more intelligent by osmosis just by hanging around him. His blog entries are as much stream of consciousness as anything else; they’re whatever he was thinking about right at that time, often written in a hurry when he’s on the way home from a standup gig, or in a dressing room. He’s Robin Ince and he blogs here. People on Twitter are, I suspect, fed up of me pointing them towards his blogs with an accompanying though entirely redundant “this is very good, by Robin Ince”.

Both of these gentlemen share one further shame; they’ve both partaken in The Fast Fiction Challenge, Warren several times (he never learns), and Robin was kind enough to give me a challenge when I wrote 24 short stories in 24 hours for Conic Relief in 2013


I might as well say here and now that yes, it’s probable, but not definite, that Twelve Days of Fast Fiction will happen this year. I’m still mulling it over but at the moment, there seem more reasons to do it than not. And people are starting to ask about them. So that’s nice. 

Up until the early 20th Century, you could actually sue someone for breach of promise, which was a common law tort. Now to be fair, it was pretty much limited to the breaking of an engagement by a man, an engagement and promise to marry then being a legally binding and enforceable, though in practice rarely actually enforced, contract. (In Jewish Law, the marriage still is a contract, by the way…)

I think they should bring back “breach of promise” as a legally enforceable concept; not in respect of promises to marry, and not for everything, but for one specific thing: any recommendation online or by email, or any plea by those methods, that has anything like:

“watch this show/play this clip… you’ll love it, I promise!”

I wouldn’t like to think how many times I’ve read such an exhortation and guarantee, and you know what? I don’t love it most of the time. Sometimes I smile, sometimes I groan, but most often, my reaction is “well, that’s two/five/ten minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.”

So, a new proposal, I think anyone who recommends something with that level of certitude ought to set aside a small sum, say a couple of hundred punds (or equivalent in local currency) that those who rely upon such a promise may claim against if indeed they don’t “love it”.

As a side effect, I suspect that it would rather speedily reduce such recommendations to things that are genuinely good, rather than 95% of the things I currently get recommended which I don’t find funny, or even amusing.

(Of course, one problem with the above is that to sue, you have to prove financial loss. How to prove that, or even measure it. I suppose you could use your salary as a guide, but then – if you’ve done it during the working day, your employers would want the cash… hmm, in the words of Fagin via Lionel Bart, “I think I’d better think it out again…”)

We could then go further; “10 things you didn’t know about [insert subject matter]!” Well, what if I do know some, indeed, most of the items in that list? “You’ll be surprised about…[insert subject matter]!” Well, what if I’m not only unsurprised (look up the definition of surprise, folks) but entirely unastonished?

Clickbait is an abuse of the entirely natural human phenomenon called curiosity and the entirely modern phenomenon of “what am I missing? What does everyone else know that I don’t?”

Modern etiquette has evolved right along the ubiquity of online life, and has only accelerated with the growth of social media.  I should be able to claim. I’d phone to complain but then what happens if I lose the signal?

Which leads me onto a second complaint about modern etiquette which perplexes me. Whose responsibility is it to call back when a phone conversation is interrupted by a lost signal? 

For once, the other day, I was using my mobile phone as a phone (it’s notable that I rarely do this; it’s far more often used as a mobile computer or camera than a telephone). I was chatting away when the signal was lost. Don’t know if it was ‘my’ signal or theirs that was lost; it doesn’t really matter, and unless it was due to one of us going into a tunnel or a lift, unlikely that we’d ever know. But anyway, I called her back and got her voicemail. And it occurred to me, as it usually does in such circumstances: what if it’s going to voicemail because she’s calling me back?

So, I think there should be a new rule: if you lose the signal while talking to someon, the person who originally made the call… calls again. Simple solution. Also takes account of what happens when you call someone who’s got not credit left on their phone – if you lose the signal, you know that you’ve got to call them again, and if they’ve got no credit, then they know you’ll be calling them back.

Done.

Next problem?

I doubt anyone reading this is unaware of the horrific events that took place in the last 24 hours in Paris. I wrote on Twitter a couple of hours ago that I didn’t have a fucking clue what I could possibly write today in the shadow of those events that wasn’t trite nor unnecessary, and as I write these words, I’m still not sure.

  
Oh, I could state my loathing both for those who committed the atrocieties we’re still learning about, and those who defend, justify or excuse those who carried them out. Or those who protest that they’re merely ‘explaining’ the motivations, when what they’re actually doing is defending, justifying or excusing. There is a time for serious people to seriously consider what happened, and such horrors can attempt to be prevented from reoccurring. But that time is in the future, not while bodies are still being identified and removed. Yes, I could state my abhorrence of such horrors, but anyone reading this would already know I abhor them.

There’s something to be said I suppose for my entire lack of surprise at how these events have shown once again that people are amazing; not those who carried out the attacks, but the people who opened their homes to those who needed shelter, the people who understood that to blame a religion (rather than its perversion) for the attacks is as ludicrous as blaming the concept of writing for an obscene piece of graffitti, the people – in short – who as Alistair Cooke once said were a credit to their race… the human race.

So let me instead comment on just three facets of the evening that entirely surprised me at the time and continue to do so; two are to do with social media, one on the news reporting; one surprised me in its cleverness and rightness, one depressed me, and one utterly disgusted me.

Facebook did something that only tech could do, that was in hindsight obvious, but at the time genuinely pleasing. If the functionality was available previously, it’s something of which I was entirely unaware, but it’s something that I sadly suspect will become more and more important as time goes on. I’m not on Facebook; lots of reasons for it, but I’ve not regretted not being on it. I may change my mind after this. A couple of hours after the attacks commenced, I first became aware that Facebook had activated a function that informed people that their ‘friends’ (i.e. contacts on Facebook) were ok, that they were safe, that they had checked in. Of course, one might think that someone on Facebook saying “I’m ok, everyone” would be enough, but I’m presuming (I don’t know, as I say, I’m not on Facebook) that this algorithm scanned your friends’ list, checked who lived in or was in Paris that night, and then if Facebook detected that their phone was moving, being used to make calls, tweet, post, etc. it automatically marked them as ‘safe’ in the function. Astonishingly clever automagical use of a social media network and one that could have been useful on too many similar occasions in the past.

Twitter meanwhile lived up/down to the comment made some years back that Twitter is at its best in the twelve minutes after any major event and at its worse in the following twelve hours. Genuinely well-motivated tweets were tweeted as accurate then deleted – or worse not deleted – as new information superceded the previous inaccurate data. Idiots made mischief, and good ideas, such as a hashtag for people to use to find somewhere safe, were drowned out as amended tweets drowned out the possibility of anyone being able to find a genuinely useful example of the hashtag. As for the developing situation on the ground, incorrect information was tweeted by too many (some well meaning, some not) without any consideration as to its accuracy. It was the most recent ‘news’ so get it out there for your followers to see… And a perfect example of this was the alleged fire at a Calais refugee camp. Too many examples last night of tweets from people stating outright that the camp was on fire, and that it was probably a ‘revenge’ attack. It took a couple of hours to sort out what had happened. Some racists online – entirely missing the point that the refugees weren’t responsible for the atacks, but were refugees precisely vecause they had fled such attacks – had tweeted that they hoped the refugee camp would be set aflame. One of them grabbed an old photo of a camp on fire (a gas cannister had exploded, accident). That pic then did the rounds, and people started tweeting that the camp was on fire. The possibility/probability/certainty/doubt/debunking process took far longer than it should have. (Edit to add: almost 24 hours later, it appears there was a fire last night, but the pictures tweeted were from an old incident, and there have been no official reasons given for the fire, nor details of the size or seriousness of it.)

And that brings me to the news reporting. Much of it was excellent; I was channel flipping between BBC News, Sky News and France 24. All had their advantages and all their disadvantages. But around midnight, BBC News was the one that shocked me, and not for a good reason. That Calais refugee camp? Look, BBC News, I can understand your irritation at being accused of always being behind everyone else and the desire to be first with ‘new’ news, but for the love of Reith, is it asking too much to withhold even a suggestion as potentially dangerous as a refugee camp being on fire until you check the bloody story out? I appreciate that being on air during a developing story is when a news presenter is tested. Well, sorry, by reporting that even as a possibility and then saying “but treat that with caution; we’re not sure it’s accurate”, you failed.

One final thing. It’s petty and trivial and shouldn’t upset me as much as it did. When you tweet something, you shouldn’t have to check the last hour of your feed to confirm ‘nothing’s happened in the world’. But more and more, it appears as if some think you should. 

The events last night started mid evening. Many were entirely unaware of the events for some time as they’d been travelling or at a party, or in the cinema or… just not on Twitter. Their tweets – about such trivialities as what they’d had for dinner, or what they’d just seen in the movie theatre, or anything at all that didn’t relate to the horrible events in Twitter – were not only perfectly understandable but on any other occasion wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow, let alone the ire of others. And yet, time after time last night, I saw someone tweet a completely harmless tweet of the sort we’ve all done, only for people to fall upon them because they’d dared tweet something that wasn’t about Paris. This isn’t not bothering to cancel scheduled tweets promoting something or other – I had three ready to go and very fortunately remembered to cancel them –   but having a pop at people because they weren’t aware what had happened in Paris. As I say, seeing the tweets discomforted me; I can’t lie, but it was that discomfort that occurs when someone you haven’t seen in years ethusiastically asks after your parents and you have to explain they died. What upset me was the knowledge that by having a go at someone, the accuser was assuming that the person tweeting knew about Paris and chose not to care. And some of these people being berated were my friends. 

Be safe today, people. Please.

Yeah, I dunno where to start today.

Chuka Umunna has this morning unstood for the Labour Party leadership after three days, the same length of time it took Nigel Farage to unresign as UKIP party leader. I’m racking my brains for anything I did on Tuesday so I can ‘un‘ it now. Meanwhile, Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions (for the US folks, that’s like the UK’s District Attorney, but unelected) won election as a Labour member of parliament last week and some are seriousky suggesting he run for the party leadership.

Too much to think about; not really in the mood for thinking about it.

So how about something non-political for today’s blog entry? Yes, that’s what I thought: good idea, budgie.

So here, for no reason whatsoever, are some youtube videos, some you’ll have probably seen before, some might be new. Anyway, until tomorrow.

Spot The Stiff – Steve Punt and Hugh Denis explain the best ‘war movie’ game in history.

 

United Breaks Guitars – Fairly self-explanatory, but Dave Carroll explains what happens when he and his band flew United.

 

The Opening to A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum… Comedy Tonight!

 

One of my favourites (and not only just because I’m in it for a second and a half…) Proud Of The BBC by the wonderful Mitch Benn

 

The True Cost of the Royal Family Explained – not funny, per se, but interesting nonetheless.

 

And last, but not least, the classic: Spiders On Drugs

Not long before the 2008 US presidential election, I went to an event put on by the US Foreign Correspondents Association. As I said yesterday, I’ve long been fascinated by American Politics and the 2008 election looked to be catnip to a politics junkie like me. I don’t remember most of the evening, although I recall that Bonnie Greer made the most sense of anyone there. 

But one item mentioned definitely struck home, and stuck: that this was the first election of any note since the invention of YouTube. YouTube had become so ubiquitous in the three years since it was launched that it was genuinely difficult to think of it not being around. And, while that election had a number of YouTube themed things going on – speeches by the candidates, early mashups of music and candidates, etc., this would only grow and become more important to the electoral process as time passed. The first British election which was enhanced by/infected by* (*delete as appropriate) social media was the 2010 election, and it’s a toss up how much of the election’s result was – at the very least –  influenced by social media. I think that, given that it was the first one, an enormous amount.



And it’ll be even worse this time around. Every party has a social media presence; they’re all on facebook, instagram, Twitter – oh lord are they on Twitter – and the rest. And every candidate is there as well. And everyone who has a view on the election is also on there.  As we get closer to the election, I’m wondering at what point my Twitter feed, say, will be so election-based that if I started muting common political expressions and party soundbites, it’s effectively fall silent.

Yeah, I know, that’s a slight overreaction and exaggeration, but what the hell; if the politicians can overreact and exaggerate, so can I. And they will. Every tiny mistake by another party will be tweeted and facebooked as a major gaffe. A semi-decent speech will be linked to by hundreds, if not thousands, proclaiming it to be the most effective oration since Homer. And every poster put out by either party will be photoshopped by the party’s opponents to make mock of the party, the poster’s concept, and of course the idiots who believe the party has their best interests at heart. And then the mashups will start…

And I’m already fed up with just the idea. 

But here’s the thing.

You’re not allowed to be fed up with it. You’re not permitted to say “enough”. If you’ve already made your mind up about the election, then you’re expected to join in, and if you haven’t yet come to a conclusion, well, everyone has an obligation to try and change your mind, don’t they?  Last time I checked, roughly one in three people eligible to vote said they hadn’t yet decided how to vote yet. I’m one of them, but so many friends of mine seem to treat that attitude as one of benign neglect at best and an utter and abject abdication of responsibility at worst. How can you want the current government to continue? You don’t? Well then, the only responsible course is to vote [insert party of choice)”.

That’s to mistake patient consideration for indecision, and a need for more information for apathy.

And that’s leaving aside the small points that (a) most people’s votes won’t make a difference; they live in a ‘safe’ constituency, and (b) we vote for a single member of parliament, and whether that party happens to form the government or not depends on how every other person votes much more than how I do.

But more about that tomorrow.

Finally, returning to social media… one of the best things about Twitter is the speed with which false stories are debunked; one of the more annoying consequences of the speed of distribution is that the debunking will never reach as many people as the original story. So, remember to check before you hit RT on that link suggesting a Cabinet Minister faked his expenses for the past five years, or a Shadow minister has been fucking a goat in his neighbour’s constituency.

And, ignore every one of the “RT for party x, Fav for party y” crap. the very definition of self-selecting polls.

Until tomorrow.

Online idiocy

Posted: 14 January 2015 in going cheep, internet, writing
Tags: ,

Not often I cross-post to here from going cheep, but this one’s worth it, I think…


Online idiocy

Every so often, an event occurs that brings the idiots out from cover and they spread their idiocy over social media with all the subtlety and tact of a bull elephant on heat. One of the stranger things about such idiots is that whereas an expert in one field may not be an expert in another, idiots tend to be multi-subject idiots.

So, as happened to me last night, you get an idiot complaining that David Cameron doesn’t know anything about Magna Carta by saying that habeous corpus came from Magna Carta. It didn’t; it came from the Assize of Clarendon, roughly fifty years before the first Magna Carta. What’s that? You didn’t know that there was more than one? Yeah, the first one, the one that everyone knows about was in 1215. Then it was repealed and then decades later, there was another one in 1297. Yeah, the first one was repealed. And, as David Allen Green has shown, there’s not a single part of current English/British Law that comes from Magna Carta; there’s not a single recorded case decided on the provisions of Magna Carta.

So, yeah, ok, I came across an idiot pontificating upon the merits of Magna Carta without knowing anything about it.

But wait, her idiocy and ignorance wasn’t limited to historical documents that have no effect upon today’s legal systems. It went further, into jewish conspiracies and how the Jews were [in part] to blame for people hating Jews because the Jews own all the banks and operate usury. And her victim blaming didn’t stop there: she blamed women for getting raped, and called for laws to abolish no-fault divorce, allow infanticide, and oh, the idiocy continued and continued. She wants to reintroduce public executions and public floggings.

Ah, social media. More proof, were it ever to be needed, that no matter how many endangered species there are on this wonderful planet of ours, we’ll never run short of idiots.

The chain

Posted: 29 August 2014 in internet, personal
Tags: , ,

I’m not sure how long I’ll let this run, but it occurred to me that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge gives a perfect example of a chain, and everybody’s contribution will be different…

I’ve heard the arguments against the challenge, but I still think it’s a worthy thing to do.

Anyway, my own personal chain started with my son Philip and his girlfriend, thus

and nominated me. So, twenty-four hours later, or thereabouts, I uploaded my own contribution…

One of the people I nominated was one of my closest friends, comedy song-writer and author Mitch Benn. And, in due course, he accepted the challenge in his own inimitable style.

Among others, Mitch nominated his wife, Clara… who, today, accepted the challenge like this.

Clara nominated… well, you’ll see who in the video.

More to follow…? We’ll see…

It’s tempting to generalise about things. It’s comforting, even. Also, dangerous as hell.

All MPs are on the take. All benefits claimants are scroungers. Furthermore, all MPs who wrongly claimed expenses were doing so fraudulently, and all mistakes on benefits claims are made by those favourite scapegoats of the right wing press: the benefit cheat.

Or: MPs followed the law, in most cases, and those that weren’t charged with criminal offences made honest mistakes, paid back any money mistakenly claimed and are paragons of virtue. Similarly, it’s perfectly understandable that with the confusing and inefficient benefits system, claimants sometimes make errors, so there’s never ever anyone cheating on their benefits.

All of the above is pure, unfettered, unmitigated crap.

And yet, depending upon the political view held by an observer (hardly an unbiased observer in most cases) one of more of the above generalisations, at least one of the above extreme positions, is actually believed.

Let’s have some more. All Tories are scum, not a caring one among the bastards. And all Lib Dems are spineless immoral toerags who wouldn’t know a principle if it jumped up and bit them. And all socialists want control of your lives, 99% tax rates and can’t be trusted to manage a shop, let alone an economy. Oh, and all UKIP supporters are racists, while all Green party supporters are naiveté personified .

Again, all pure unfettered, unmitigated crap.

Oh, but let’s not limit it to domestic politics. By no means; all American right wingers are misogynistic racist thugs, and all Democrats can’t be trusted with the nation’s security. Oh, and every Christian is either a nonce or is covering up for them, you can’t trust Jews because of course they support Israel unquestionably and all Moslems want you dead.

Once again, pure unfettered, unmitigated crap.

It’s truly astonishing to me how many otherwise sensible people take an example, often take more than one example to be fair, and extrapolate those to the entire population under discussion.

I’d love to be able to say that it’s only the extreme cases that rely upon generalisations, but it’s not; it’s prevalent in discussion to the point that it’s rare to engage in conversation where at least one of the arguments doesn’t rest upon a generalisation. I can’t think how many debates I’ve had with people over the past couple of years where the extreme position has been the fundamental basis of their position. And it’s been even worse the past couple of weeks, what with Israel’s military attack on Gaza, after and during which anyone who doesn’t call for the destruction of Israel apparently supports baby killing, and those who don’t agree with the military action are apparently ok with all the Jews being killed. (c.f. unmitigated crap, above.)

(Yes, I know, I know – I’ve said there may well be a full post on that, and there still may be. I’ve drafted, redrafted, written and rewritten the post a half dozen times and I’m still unsure whether or not I’ll post it.)

The extreme positions taken by some, by many online it sometimes seems, bothers me. And it worries me. Because… and this is where I tread carefully, you end up with the “not ALL men” responses.

“Not ALL men” is a comment that gets thrown back at anyone who tries to explain why women feel afraid of men; I’ve felt the impulse to respond that way myself and it’s only really because I have intelligent – and understanding – women friends who’ve explained to me in detail why such a comment is not only inappropriate but wildly so.

But yeah, I sometimes want to respond “not ALL Tories” are unfeeling, uncaring loathesome specimens, “not ALL Lib Dems” are craven cowards, “not ALL American right wingers” decry equal marriage. It’s hard not to, especially when you’re one of the people (none of the above in this paragraph, to be fair) who’s being unfairly traduced.

Whatever happened to nuance? Have we taken the twenty-four hour news cycle to which we demand politicians answer and appropriated it to ourselves? OK, I accept that in the most part, people want simple yes/no solutions to complicated problems. In short, people want to know who’s the goodie and who’s the baddie.

Well, people are neither the one nor the other.

In that wonderful TV programme, The West Wing, at one point, the President says:

Every once in a while, every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts.

Thing is, even then, even when body counts are involved, it’s usually too simple to say there’s an absolute right or an absolute wrong.

And for the rest of the time, why the hell not accept that you just might not know enough to talk knowledgeably about a subject? In fact, if you’re sure there is an absolute right, or an equally absolute wrong, and that your generalising merely emphasises that fact, you’ve just proved to me that you don’t know enough.

So either learn some more about it or sit in the corner and let the grown ups talk for a while.

Came across these yesterday evening and I wanted to put them up here, both for future reference and because I suspect that many people reading this have never seen them…

And also because there’s no way I could now survive without a spell checker. It’s not that I’m lousy at spelling – perish the thought – but because I usually make more than a few typos when typos at speed and the spell checker more often than not points them out to me.

In the realms of online communication, however, such message boards, twitter, instant messaging and the like, it’s quite astonishing how quickly everyone learns to read fluent tyop.

Spelling
Spill chuckers are amazing things, aren’t they…?

An Owed to the Spelling Checker

I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh
My checker tolled me sew.
A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when aye rime.
Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule
The checker pours o’er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.
Be four a veiling checkers
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if were lacks or have a laps,
We wood be maid to wine.
Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know faults with in my cite,
Of non am eye a wear.
Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped words fare as hear.
To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should be proud.
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaws are knot aloud.
Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas.
And why I brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.
—– anon.

But problems with spelling are just amateur hour, compared to:

Pronunciation
I used to know this by heart, but it’s been a long time since then. Again, it’s anonymous, as far as I know, but worth sticking it here:

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, lough and through?
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead; it’s said like bed, not bead
For goodness sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear;
And then there’s dose and rose and lose
Just look them up – and goose and choose.
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I’d mastered it when I was five!

Feel free to leave a comment below when your tongue has removed itself from the roof of your mouth and unknotted itself.

I’ve been off wandering again the last few days, long walks that do a lot for clearing the brain and an equal amount for hurting my foot. (More details about the latter here…)

When I’m wandering I usually listen to podcasts or the radio, but sometimes I return to an old favourite. And recently, I’ve been listening again to the 2003 BBC Reith Lectures, by neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran. Now apart from challenging everyone to come up with a better name than that, he’s the Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California (San Diego), and he’s a man with a voice like James Mason.

Every time I listen to the lectures, and I listen to them about once a year, I am staggered by what they know about the mind and the brain, and how much they admit they don’t know.

They’re superb, and I recommend the lectures without hesitation.

BBC Link: Reith Lectures 2003

Here’s the first lecture by Ramachandran; it’ll give you a flavour of them. In it he talks about among other things about Capgras Syndrome and Face Blindness, where someone can’t recognise a face of someone familiar (in fact thinks they must be an imposter)… and even weirder, recognises them as an someone he knows when they’re on the phone…


PS For those who read yesterday’s blog and are curious as to whether I’m going to write on Israel/Gaza… I’m still thinking about it. You’ll know when I know…

I’ve been on Twitter for about six and a half years, from the start of 2007.

In that time, somehow, I’ve managed to attract a few followers, and I currently follow about 500 people’s tweets. Some of those people tweet more than others, fairly obviously, so it’s not like I’m reading 500 people’s views, opinions, and what they had for lunch.

Lots of these people I know, as in I’ve met them, or known them online for years. Some of them I’ve not met, and am never likely to. And some people I follow because I admire them, and – as much as you can, having never met them – like them.

I like Twitter. I like the to and fro of conversation. I like how Twitter can simultaneously lift your sprits, lower your expectations, bring a smile to your face, and hugely embarrass you in a coffee shop as you burst out laughing at something you’ve read.

But there’s a darker side to Twitter. A nasty side. In fact, there’s more than one. I’ve written about the horror and nastiness of ‘@ attacks’ previously, a problem for which I’m still genuinely struggling to find a solution.

Another less than pleasant side of Twitter is both far easier and far harder to solve. Even though the solution is well-known, executing it, following through with the policy, is sometimes one of the hardest things in the world for someone online: it’s simply not responding to specific tweets.

At this point, I would be remiss (and I’d probably be fired from the Internet) if I didn’t refer to one of the smartest and most perceptive of all the cartoons produced by xkcd.com:

So, ok, we all recognise that, I’m sure.

So what makes it worse when it’s someone you know, or someone you like, or someone you respect and admire? I don’t know. But it does. In spades.

Recently, I had an experience on Twitter where I suspect I did not cover myself in glory. Someone I respected and certainly admired for her work and how she’d led her life made a comment that was ignorant at best and astonishingly plain stupid in respect of comic books. It ‘pressed a button’ of mine and I responded less than politely, calling her ignorant, challenging her reasonably aggressively. I meant ‘ignorant’ in the literal sense of the word, but in retrospect I probably should have used a different word. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility (probability even) that she was simply unaware that comics had changed in forty years; I should have taken the opportunity to hopefully educate her rather than make her think that I was one of ‘those’ twitter users.

Ah well, hopefully a mutual friend will ease that particular rocky patch.

The two golden things that are pretty much guaranteed to rile any Twitter user are, inevitably, religion and politics. And, fortunately, there are more than enough places in the world where the two are conflated by everyone concerned (residents, onlookers, commentators and the Internet) so you can offend twice as many people at one go!

So what do you do when someone you like, someone you admire, someone who’s work you respect, makes a comment that is just so wrong-headed, so.. just so… just so WRONG (in your eyes) that to leave it there unchallenged is equally wrong?

Me? I’m going to try to start realising that whether or not I respond is irrelevant. It’s unlikely that I’d ever change their mind over a deeply held opinion; debating the subject is equally unlikely to change either of our minds. And if I don’t respond? Hey, 30 seconds later it’s gone from my timeline, scrolled into the electronic ether.

There are some exceptions, of course. Provably incorrect urban myths, mistakes and just plain errors of fact are worth correcting. (I’ll leave it to others to judge the line for themselves where something crosses from opinion into fact; if you believe it’s an easy decision in all circumstances, try discussing Israel online sometime…; it’ll cure you of that certainty in a fucking heartbeat.)

I’m reminded of an occasion where a comedian I hugely respected made a crass comment about Jews, repeating a quite widely believed but flat wrong myth. He was corrected by many people and not only apologised but did so in a way that the honesty of the apology and how foolish he felt for repeating the myth were plain to everyone.

There are subjects I don’t discuss ‘in real life’ with friends. It’s not worth it. One friend of mine genuinely, honestly, believes that the Jewish practice of circumcising infants is child abuse. We don’t discuss the inconvenient-to-our-friendship-otherwise fact that my son is circumcised.

You know what? I’m going to try and follow Wil Wheaton’s advice, and try not to be a dick. It’ll be for others to judge how successful or not I am.

According to one of the reviews for The Fast Fiction Challenge collection, I have “an interesting mind, though not always a comfortable one”.

I think that’s a rather nice compliment… so I’m going to revel in it, and run something I haven’t done for a while…

There seem to be Special Days for everything these days. According to Holiday Insights, yesterday was National Receptionist Day, today is Lost Sock Memorial Day while tomorrow is Clean Up Your Room Day.

But I think we can do better than that. Let’s once again see how many days we can create our own special day for, concentrating, naturally, on the things that make up proud of ourselves, or our country.

Think we should have a “National Invade Another Country Day”? It’s yours.

How about a “National Throw Politicians In Jail Day”?

Or even “National Act Insufferable Day” or “National Burn a Sheep Day”.

Pick a day, preferably your birthday, and state your National Holiday.

Some days have already gone, taken previously. August 17th for example, is National Stiff Upper Lip Day, in which you’re not allowed to display any deep emotion, nothing that would show others that you’re either particularly happy or particularly upset. A typical Tuesday for a Brit, in other words.

This time around, I’m taking today as “International The Original Elmer Fudd Was Better Day” with which, surely, no one can disagree.

Your turn. And spread the word…

Available: (I’ll update this with new dates as they’re submitted)
Hover your mouse over the date
January 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
February 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29
March 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
April 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
May 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
June 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
July 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
August 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
September 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
October 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
November 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
December 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Days taken – again, this will be updated, but only the new celebratory dates chosen will have IDs attached here.

Available: (I’ll update this with new dates as they’re submitted)
January
11 National Purple Day
30 National Tyop Day

February
10 National Nest Day
17 Make Your Meals From Scratch Day
18 National Wear At Least One Item Of Completely Inappropriate Clothing To Work Day

March
04 Stoat-Charmer Appreciation Day
08 National Kick Boris Johnson In The Knackers Day
12 National Set Fire To A Tory Day
19 National National Comics Day

April
17 Glorious Golden Rock God Day
21 International Day of Observance of the Utter Awesomeness of WWI aviators

May
07 International A-ha Day
09 International The Original Elmer Fudd Was Better Day
10 International Do Not Create Made-Up Words That Start With TW Just Because You Use Twitter Day
21 Avoid Being Raptured Day
27 National Worry Your Friends Day
28 National Pursue Your Dream Regardless Of What Anyone Else Might Think Of You Day
29 National Squirrel Conversation Day

June
01 National Tankard Day
24 National Pretend To Be Kylie Minogue Day
27 National Ask No Questions Day

July
09 International Invade The City Of Your Choice Day
12 National Death To False Metal Day
17 National 4ft 9in Glasweigan Lesbian Day
29 Welsh Cake Day

August
06 National Paint Flinging Day
10 National Archaic Swearword Day
17 National Stiff Upper Lip Day
24 National Make A Cake For Stephen Fry For Being Lovely Day

September

October
02 National Travel To Work By Pogo-Stick Day (Bhutan & Isle of Wight)
14 National Bribe Someone Else To Do Your Housework Day
24 Be Insane Day
30 No Restraint Day

November
17 Martini et Matelot Matinee

December
05 Be A Heartless Bitch/Bastard Day
12 International Relocate a Garden Gnome Day
21 Shut Up And Play Your Guitar Day

Hover over the dates in the grid to see who picked the previous dates…

I always forget that there are people on Facebook, Twitter, etc. who don’t know how – or from where – I got the nickname budgie.

I mean to say, I’ve had the nickname for over thirty years now, and far more people know me as ‘budgie’ than know me as “Lee”, “Mr Barnett”, or in one case, “Dad”.

But, every so often, I get a number of messages asking for the derivation of the name. And since, in the words of a friend of mine, it’s a story that “bears retelling”, here it is… with apologies if you’ve read this before.

Now what you first have to remember is that when I signed up online, with CompuServe, back in the mid 1990s, it was for fun. This wasn’t work; this was entertainment, this was escapism, this was – in short – fun.

So, when I visited my first online Forum, the Comics and Animation Forum, and saw people not only using handles, but being positively encouraged to use ’em, I ‘reactivated’ the nickname I’d picked up at college but which I had only used for passwords etc. for a few years.

Of course, naïve fool that I was, it didn’t occur to me that people might be curious about the derivation of the nickname. But they were. They most definitely were.

So, in a fit of madness, I said “ok, if anyone wants to know, ask”. Within a couple of days, I had something like 75 requests.

So, I threw it out as a contest: guess the derivation.

I let it run for a week, and then posted something along the lines of the following:

I’ve had suggestions that it’s due to my looks, my liking for an old British television programme starring Adam Faith, my eating habits, my collections, my possible fan-worship of the Duchess of York, possibly being a window-cleaner, being “Bald and Pudgie”, or that I do lots of budgets, being an accountant. [sigh]

And no-one, but no-one, guessed that I was kidnapped as a baby and brought up in the wild by friendly budgerigars.

OK, here’s the true story:

In 1982, I went up to Manchester (North West England) to go to college at Manchester Polytechnic.

I was doing a BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance, the results of that course I’m sure you’re too polite to ask about.

Anyway, after a couple of months, I was dragged along to a “hypnotists evening” by some friends on my course, who thought it would be a bit of a laugh. And so it proved to be.. (And no, before you ask, I was not hypnotised into thinking I was a budgerigar. It’s more fun than that… for the other people, anyway…)

By the end of the evening, a fun time had been had by all, watching various friends fall asleep, others regress by only a couple of years down to a mental age of three, and generally being sarcastic and silly about the whole thing.

Of course, inevitably, just as I was about to leave, someone suggested that the hypnotist have a crack at “doing Lee”.

As one who was at that time ‘game for a laugh’ – my, how that’s changed – I said OK, and the very next thing I remember was everyone laughing their socks off.

Apparently…

…and here it comes, folks, this is what you’ve been waiting for.

Apparently, I had been hypnotised into believing that I had a small budgie in my pocket. I had taken it out, watched it fly around the room, put it into one pocket and taken it out of another – that sort of thing.

As far as I was concerned, that would have been it. One more evening that you look back at and cringe. Except that when I walked into lectures the following morning, Dave Rothburn (one of the cronies I hung around with) yelled out in front of 120 students (and the lecturer) in his best impersonation of that bloke on Carson’s Show, “He-e-e-e-r-r-r-e’s Budgie!

The name stuck.

Not only did the name stick, but I was, by the end of three years at college, far better known as Budgie than as Lee.

It gets worse. About five years after leaving college, I bumped into someone at a function that I’d been at college with, had been quite good friends with, but hadn’t been in contact with since we both left college. We were, understandably enough, delighted to see each other. She introduced me to her husband with the immortal line :

“John, this is…erm..erm. oh, hell, this is Budgie – I’m ever so sorry, I’ve forgotten…erm, I only ever knew you as Budgie!”

So that’s it – I hope the story was worth it….

Now it’s your turn – nickname and derivation please, the more embarrassing for both, the better.

It’s been a while since I’ve been personally attacked for something I’ve written. No, I’ve not missed it, so please, don’t feel obliged to do so in response to this piece.

But if you do, in the comments box below, I can’t really say I haven’t asked for it here, can I?

Criticism of creative works, whether they are writings, cartoons, comedy, music, or any creative endeavour, comes with the package. If you’re not prepared to be criticised for your opinions and works, then don’t offer them to the world. There will always be those who agree with what you’ve created (no matter how good or bad the work) and always be those who dislike “it”, whatever “it” is.

I’ve written previously about the personal and misogynistic attacks Laurie Penny has faced over some of her pieces, and I’ve been sickened at those and other attacks at friends whose sole offence seems to be to provoke a reaction of “we don’t like you.”

However, notwithstanding my earlier comment that all creators invite criticism (good and bad) of their works, there’s a current unpleasant practice on Twitter that I think is worthy of comment.

Now if you write a column, or a blog, there is usually an opportunity at the venue of publication to comment upon that piece of writing. The very fact that opportunity exists invites people to do so. And, while the advice of “never read the comments” is always given, it’s a fact that precious few creators have the ability and willpower not to at least glance at them.

“Never read the comments” is perhaps the best advice for the Internet, apart from Wil Wheaton’s advice of “Don’t be a dick.” Sadly, it’s equally ignored by many.

But, if I can use an analogy, many people complain about a television programme offending them. The usual response is “don’t watch it then”, and it’s a fair response at that. Despite the oft-quoted counter of “I didn’t ask for this to be in my living room’, I’m sorry, but you did precisely that, by selecting that television programme to watch.

In the same way, if you go looking for criticism of your work, in some (but not all) ways, you forfeit the moral right to complain at what’s been written about the work. You don’t, however, ever forfeit the right to complain about personal attacks.

However – back to the tv example for a moment – so far, at least, my television has never switched channel mid-way through an episode of House MD to show, say, Keith Olbermann attacking me in full “rampaging bull elephant on heat” mode.

Neither, to take another example, has my internet browser suddenly alerted me with a pop up window showing me details of an Internet commenter ripping me, or something I’ve written, apart.

And then we have Twitter. Twitter is almost unique (Facebook has tags, but they’re somewhat different) in that anyone on Twitter, anyone at all, can attach an ‘@’ to your Twitter ID in a tweet and it will be brought to your attention. You can’t avoid it. It’s the way Twitter works.

So, let’s say Joe Oik from Cityville, Nebraska doesn’t like something I’ve written.

Fair enough, it happens.

He tweets the following:

Just read the latest column by Lee Barnett. God, the guy’s a dick. He should give up foisting this crap on the world. He’s fucking useless.

Fair enough, it’s unpleasant, and I would – I’d imagine – disagree with the broad sentiments of his views. And yes, if I or friends saw it, I or they might respond. We’d be idiots to, but hey, we’re entitled to be idiots just as much as anyone else online.

But I am, and they are, unlikely to see the tweet unless I or they undertake a vanity search on Twitter, or on Google, since Google have started showing tweets in their search results.

Contrast that with the following tweet:

Just read the latest column by @budgie. God, the guy’s a dick. He should give up foisting this crap on the world. He’s fucking useless.

Now, I’m going to see that tweet. I’m definitely going to see that tweet.

It’s going to be notified to me next time I go on Twitter. Depending upon how I access Twitter, I might even get a little icon lighting up highlighting the fact that someone has mentioned me. And, since I’m like everyone else, I’m kind of curious when someone mentions me.

So I’ll read the tweet.

Make no mistake, this doesn’t fall within “don’t read the comments.” This is the actual “I didn’t want this in my living room” as opposed to the falsity of that being applied to television.

Of course I’m going to read it. Because that was what was intended by the tweeter when he or she wrote it.

I was trying to think of any “innocent” reasons for including someone’s Twitter name, suitably @’d, in a nasty, criticising, tweet, and, with a couple of friends, I think I’ve identified two:

(1) the tweeter is new to Twitter, and doesn’t realise that every ‘@’ is notified to the subject.
(2) the tweeter is a fucking idiot.

(1) is possible. It is. People new to any form of communication make errors in etiquette, format, etc. Just think of how many people over the years have had to be told that writing in capitals denotes shouting. Or just who has has to be informed that “LOL” doesn’t mean “Lots of Love”.

So, (1) is possible. But I think it’s difficult to argue ignorance or naïveté when you’ve got 500+ tweets under your belt.

And (2) is more than possible. Paraphrasing the words of an old Labour MP when accused of being a stupid cunt, there are lot of stupid cunts around and they deserve some representation. And there are even more online.

But I’d venture to suggest that of all the offending tweets with which this piece is concerned, i.e. nasty tweets with an ‘@’ in them, maybe, maybe, 1% fall into this ‘innocent’ category.

Now, there are various ways of dealing with these tweets once they’re in your view, in your view I repeat through no effort of your own, in your view because they’ve been put there quite deliberately by someone whose only motive is to offend or, if you’re both cynical and forgiving, to bolster follower count by offending someone.

There’s what I call The Cathartic Response: Retweet the offending tweet without comment. Get it out of your system and just slap it out there for the world to see. It can’t ‘hurt’ you any more and it has the side-effect of letting your followers and fans know that someone’s been nasty to you. Who knows? Someone may… remonstrate with the tweeter and let them know that their’s is a minority view.

(I’m reminded of the tale of George Bernard Shaw, upon taking his bows at a first night to thunderous applause, and detecting one person booing. GBS is reputed to have responded “Personally, sir, I agree, but what are we two against the multitudes?” I don’t believe it. I think Shaw probably told him to fuck off.)

Then there’s the “I’ll show him” Response, where the creator point blank tells his followers to take on the tweeter. Though I have little sympathy for the tweeter, this is just plain stupid.

As is the Hit Back Just As Nastily Response, as exemplified by Giles Coren yesterday. Yes, it’s tempting, but it ends up with neither ‘side’ smelling of roses. I suspect that Coren’s tweet will become the new example of “tweet in haste, repent in leisure.”

The only sensible thing to do is… to do nothing. And that’s about as likely as no-one ever reading the comments on the Internet.

So you’re left with the not very sensible things to do.

Which is also unsatisfactory.

I don’t know the solution – I really don’t.

But here’s an idea. It’s novel, I know, and terribly old fashioned, but then in many ways, I’m a terribly old-fashioned bloke.

How about… just not doing it, people of Twitter? How about having the common courtesy not to ‘@’ someone if you’re taking a pop at them? How about just thinking a moment before hitting that “Send” button?

How about… just behaving like you’re not a dick?

In 2008, I took part in a writing project entitled elephantwords.co.uk, and during a three month stint wrote thirteen short stories, one a week, based upon a image (changed weekly) submitted by one of the contributors.

It was an interesting exercise, with the stories being a tad longer than the fast fictions, but still definitely short stories

The organiser and I have, on occasion, discussed me putting in another stint, and I figured that now’s as good a time as any…

So, as from next week, I’ve signed up for another stint; again, three months to start with, and we’ll see how I feel after that.

But for your amusement, and interest, since I suspect that many if not most of the people reading this will never have read the stories, here’s a handy list of the stories I did last time around, together with small versions of the images upon which inspirations for the stories were drawn. They’re presented in order of most recent (i.e. the final one comes first.) Click on either the pictures or the title to be taken to the story…

And have no fear, I’ll let you know when the new stories go up…


Super!


Paying Attention


The Decision


Thinking Allowed


Underneath The Leaves


The More Things Change


The Changes in Her


The Visit


Empty Tracks


The Ultimate Picture


True Steps On A False Floor


Her Shadow


That Morning

It’s been a busy few days, not merely limited to the usual busy stuff of shopping, catching up on correspondence, and watching slack-jawed at the rank stupidity of those who are supposed to be in charge of what we still refer to as democracies around the world.

Oh, yes, before I forget, if you haven’t watched the following by Keith Olbermann, excoriating Michael Bloomberg, you really ought to. (It’s funny – for years, I misunderstood the meaning of the word ‘defenestrate’ – I didn’t realise it meant ‘being thrown out of a window’; I thought it meant being ripped apart. Dunno why, but the word would seem to fit what Olbermann does here anyway. Hat-tip to Tony Lee for pointing me to this…)

Whether it’s the United States (see above), Italy – where the replacement of the satire-free (for how do you satirise someone whose career has been spent satirising the political process) Berlesconi with a non-elected government, or our own government who seem to believe that replacing health care with a video of the Health Secretary telling patients everything will be ok is sufficient, it’s enough to make one simply give up.

Except of course, that’s the point – you can’t give up on democracy. Don’t like the current government? Campaign for its replacement at the next election. And before anyone jumps in with “well, we can’t replace it for another three years,” look at it as having three years to campaign.

Personally, I feel the same about this government as I do about Boris Johnson as Mayor. It’s neither as horrifically bad as its detractors are painting it, nor as saint-like and necessary as its supporters proclaim. And in that, it’s no better nor worse than the past few governments, and maybe every government for the past five decades.

But it’s lied to us. Consistently and shamelessly. Far more than previous governments. Far, far more.

Our government lied to us. Before the election, during the election, and in the eighteen months since the election.

It’s not that the government – or the ministers therein – have told us things that turned out to be untrue. That happens. I may believe that if it occurs a minister should resign under the convention of individual ministerial responsibility, but that convention, like a genuine left-wing party with a chance of power, bankers with a social conscience and Spangles, appears to belong to the long ago.

And talking of conventions…

Yes, I know it’s a weak segue, since it’s been quite some time since get-togethers of comics professionals and fans in the UK have proudly referred to themselves as conventions. (And I miss it.)

But yeah, talking of conventions, I spent this weekend in Leeds at the annual (and now two-day) get-together named Thought Bubble. Part of the annual week-long arts festival held in that fair City, I’ve heard nothing but good things about TB for some years, and since (a) I had the time, (b) it was now two days, not one, and (c) it meant that I would see some friends I never really get the opportunity to see often enough, (and that includes some I see several times a year), I went up for it.

Leaving aside my post from Friday, which while partially accurate for this weekend as it is for every weekend spent at a comics con/festival/expo, it was a fun time.

The comics pros were in good humour, as they are at most such events, and the Friday night introductory party was as expected full of alcohol, comics pros and comics pros full of alcohol.

I hadn’t intended to – and indeed didn’t – attend any panels during the weekend, but spent both days chatting with friends, and comics prod, and… discovering. Discovering new creators, new creations, and how one hall seemed to be designed for about 80% of the number of people attending while the other room could have housed an echo chamber.

Interestingly, while I heard the venue described as “miles from nowhere”, I have to disagree – it was very close to nowhere.

It’d be daft to simply list the number of people I knew at the place, however, simply because I’d miss someone out, but among the delights I discovered and obtained was the first issue of a delightful book entitled The Peckham House for Invalids by Howard Hardiman, Julia Scheele and Sarah Gordon, about turn of the [last] century super-heroines.

More – possibly – tomorrow, but here are some pics… You don’t really need explanations for them, do you?

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It’s Saturday. Time for a smile.

You like Mitch Benn? You like his songs? You like Ikea?

So you’d think that Mitch might like World of Warcraft?

Erm, may I draw your attention intro the following (taken by Max at Distraction Club)

Smile… in recognition, if for no other reason.

See you tomorrow.

It’s not often that I write anything that escapes beyond the confines of the venue in which I wrote it. This is one such thing.

It was originally written a few years ago for a column I wrote, and then reposted in my blog.

I’m rather proud of it, and since I’m about to be off to Leeds for Thought Bubble, and almost certainly won’t have time to write a full con report, I’ve returned to the option of reposting The Last Con Report You’ll Ever Need:

Enjoy.




Friday
So it’s [insert con name] again and I’m [really looking forward to it/quite looking forward to it/obliged to go, really]. Got my gear together and [shut the empty flat/said goodbye to my loved ones/dropped off the cat at neighbours].

I got ready to leave and found that [to my surprise/inevitably/unexpectedly] I was leaving home [earlier/later/the same time] as I had anticipated leaving.

I knew how to get there because I [had been to the venue before/spoken to the hotel/looked it up in advance] and as I hit the road, the traffic was [heavy/light/non-existent].

Although I [hit some traffic later/stopped off for a coffee/broke down], I eventually made it into [insert town in which convention is held], and thought it was [nice/a relief/depressing] to be back. I was staying at [a different/the same/the convention] hotel and when I drove into the car park found a space [immediately/after some time/eventually].

Checking in was [easy/a pain/interminable] and I nodded at [name dropped in the hope that it’ll make me seem more important]. He nodded back, [pleased to see me/sympathising/wondering who the hell I was]. We promise to [catch up later/ignore each other/pick on the French]. So that was [nice/cool/unpleasant].

I got to the room and [had a shower/lit up a the first of many cigarettes/changed rooms immediately].

I [grabbed some sleep/went for a swim/started drinking] and all too soon, it was dinner time. I’d decided to eat [at the hotel/out/to get some food inside me before the heavy drinking] and I returned to the bar to find [a pro you’ve never heard of, so don’t sweat it, but maybe if I mention him, I’ll get a sketch off of him next year].

Arriving [a day before most people/with so many others/at a pub] gives me the opportunity to [grab some fresh air/get my bearings/drink lots]. There are [only a few/some/many] people milling around and although I realise that they’re there for the comics festival, they’re [professionals, chatting about work they’re doing/hangers on/members of message boards].

The [launch party/seminars/drinkup] swings into gear and various comics [pros/wannabes/pundits] arrive. I see a familiar face and [want to punch it/scrounge a drink/exchange gossip]. The evening [passes speedily/drags/becomes mildly interesting] as I grab the opportunity to [talk comic books/strip/get drunk] without feeling the slightest bit embarrassed. It’s a [strange/nice/usual] feeling.

Besides which, embarrassment is impossible to maintain when [three people on stilts enter the room, dressed in leather with bat-wings… /that bloody T-shirt is doing the rounds/people are sniffing dandruff through straws].

Later, I see [name drop] talking to [name drop] and [name drop] and wander over [to introduce myself/ask for an autograph/embarrass myself]. We stand around, [chatting/feeling stupid/watching everyone else] and [name drop, but this time I use his first name, so I really do know him, ok?] [tells me to go away/lets me buy him a drink/tells a story that could be an amusing anecdote if he didn’t kill the last line]. He introduces me to the other [fellas/strange people/comics professionals] he was talking to… [name you’ve never heard of and another name you’ve never heard of] of [comic book company that is attending The convention just to say ‘please like me’].

Around 1:20 the hotel staff start to [shut the bar/beat up the stragglers/give up] and I head for bed…

Saturday
As I wake up, I’m [disoriented/wide awake/not alone] and it’s a second before I realise [where I am/that I’m conscious/who she is]. I have a quick [shower/shave/…] when it suddenly occurs to me that I have no idea [whether the cost of the room covers breakfast/if I ordered a newspaper/who she is].

I’m wearing [the item of clothing with a logo that I think everyone recognises, but in reality no one has a clue about] deliberately so that when I get to the [publisher] table, I can see their reactions… [insert smiley icon in the hope that a cringe-worthy moment will be transformed into a hugely amusing item].

So what are my plans for today? Well, obviously [you don’t give a damn/I have a panel to attend/I wish to buy enough comics to fill the grand canyon]. As always at [insert insiders’ nickname for con, so it makes me sound like I’m an insider], it’s best to [get drunk early/get drunk even earlier/take a trek around the dealers’ rooms]. I walk into the main dealing room. The first thing I notice is [a huge piece of artwork/the noise/the smell]. I see artwork for [current huge comics related movie] and think that I’d love that piece. Then I look at the price. It’s unbelievable that it’s that [cheap/expensive/price] and I [buy it/pass on it/shrug] before moving on.

The next thing I see is a desk with [current hot comic] and a man standing behind the desk with an [engaging grin/outstretched palm/elephantine nose]. I introduce myself to [creator who really wishes he was working on X-Men] and we [shake hands/ask each other who else we’ve seen/agree to get drunk later]. I notice the [famous publisher] table and walk over to it only to see [famous creator/a crowd/the background artist for one issue on a title that didn’t make it past issue #6].

I say hello to them and although [name drop] remembers me, there’s [only a faint air of recognition/contempt/joy and strewning of petals] from his companion.

The [famous publisher] crowd all look at the [item of clothing] and then studiously ignore it.

I continue around the dealing room, still hoping against hope that I’m going to find some of this week’s or even this month’s books on display. I’m disappointed. Not one dealer has recent books out. I’m more than disappointed; I’m staggered, but not staggered enough not to pick up a couple of [cult title that I got into six months after the cool kids had left it] trade paperbacks.

I wonder back around the room and see that [famous artist] is doing some sketches. I’d already seen some of his work in the black-and-white photocopy of [let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter what the title is – I got sent a preview copy and you didn’t, ha ha ha ha], so ask him to do me a sketch. He’s [surprised/more than happy to do so/sketching before I can finish the question].

I wander in and out of [a few panels/the bar/who the hell is she? It’s beginning to bug me now] and see nothing that grabs my attention and the [morning/hour/rest of the day] passes with me saying hi to [people who have no idea who I am].

[Someone who’s a legend in his own lunchtime] and I literally bump into each other as I’m saying goodbye to [name drop] and we remember that we’ve agreed never to discuss [controversial comic book title] with each other, since our views differ so much on it…

The awards dinner is [just starting/tonight/over] but I’m not attending. I know there’s nothing more [rewarding/humiliating/excruciating] than watching [friends/enemies/both] getting awards and receiving [boos/bows/booze] but I just can’t [deal with that/be bothered/stand up straight] right now.

The bar shuts around [1/2/6]-ish and once again I head for [my bed/someone else’s bed/another bar] before the dawn comes.

Sunday
I wake up [early/late/again]. I look at [my watch/the television/the remains of the packet of 200 cigarettes I brought with me] and [smile/wince/try to remember who I am].

I realise that I’ve got two and a half minutes to get [downstairs for breakfast/dressed/sober].

There are a couple of people from last night still around downstairs and it looks like they’re [barely human/still drinking/both] and I wish I felt as good as they looked.

After breakfast, I don’t even bother to look at the panels I might be missing. I don’t care – I’m too tired and I go upstairs for another hour’s sleep.

As I’m walking to the convention proper, I see [the organiser of the convention]. We get to talk for five minutes when I realise that [he hates me/he really hates me/he hates me with a passion that can only have come from me having murdered his pet]. So that’s nice.

I drop [another tab/my bag/by another couple of panels], but nothing memorable happens.

I go back to the dealer room and see some [regulars/old hands/convenient name drops] there. [Insert feeble in joke which maybe six people might get, and only then if they know in advance that I’m doing it.]

Oh looks like I’ve [said all I have to say/run out of time/couldn’t give a damn any more, what time’s Simpsons on?].

More next [time/post/week] if I can [remember what I did when I was drunk/be bothered/get the blackmail negatives back].

There, that should do it.

A sign of the Tmies

Posted: 16 November 2011 in internet, personal
Tags:

I’ve mentioned before the fun there’s sometimes to be had in just enjoying the typos and nonsense that surround us.

And, over the past few years, I’ve taken snaps of just strange signs and just plain weird things I’ve seen.

So here are some of them:

Sometimes it just throws me for a very simple reason.

I mean – what does the sign do on its day off? I’m similarly curious, when I see a pub sign saying “Closed for private party” what the people who’ve booked the room think when they realise they can’t get in.

Then there’s just the misplaced apostrophe, which is irritating anyway, but moreso when it’s on a printer’s sign of some sort:

OK, then we have the sign that doesn’t quite make sense, even though the designers are completely sure of it. Currently, on a building in Newman Street, W1 is the following sign:

So be careful. Because if you observe anyone smoking, they can complain about you to Security…

Now here’s a strange one in the same vein, from a restaurant in Goodge Street:

See the sign on the door?

Here it is in close-up:

Isn’t that kind of them? To tell everyone the times that they’re closed?

How about this one? erm…

Or this one from 2007 (there’s more information about this one here)

And then there’s this, spotted in Chesham, on Monday:

Finally – for the moment – there’s this. Not mine, but too good not to repeat. This was from May this year, on the day of the 2011 election, and is… just… perfect…

Oh really…?

Posted: 14 November 2011 in internet
Tags:

Here’s a game, originally created by Mark Evanier

To quote from Mark:

Below are links and descriptions for five websites. Four of them actually exist on the Internet. One is a phony that we made up. Study all five and see if you can guess which link won’t lead you to the website in question. There is no prize for this except that you get to visit four weird websites and to feel smug if it doesn’t take you five clicks to find the phony. Enjoy.

Here are my five for your delectation. Remember, four of them are actual websites… one of them is a falsie.

Delphion’s Gallery of Obscure Patents – “Have an idea for a necktie gauge or how about a bird trap/cat feeder? Well, you better make sure that your idea hasn’t already been tried. Head on over to the Gallery of Obscure Patents and see what other oddities have been filed at the Patent Office”

Online help for Harvard University’s General Ledger and Journal Entry Process – just what you need in an emergency, detailed instructions on how to operate Harvard’s accounts program.

The Gospel of Theta Sigma – “The secret story of the thirteenth disciple – the biography of The Doctor (from UK’s BBC television series) written as if it’s a new gospel”

The Dull Men’s Club – “Where Dull Men can share thoughts and experiences, free from pressures to be in and trendy, free instead to enjoy the simple, ordinary things of everyday life”

Om Nom Nom Nom – “This website offers you some images to look at, and warns that you should keep saying “omnomnomnom” aloud while looking at these pictures. If not, it claims that you are doing it wrong!”

Universal appeal

Posted: 13 November 2011 in internet, personal, quotes
Tags: , ,

Stand outside on a clear night and look up. That’s the universe up there looking back at you. It’s something pretty special.

Today, while driving, I heard the latest episode on Radio 4 of The Museum of Curiosity, and one of the participants was Lucie Green, a British solar researcher based at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory of University College London. Her ‘specialised subject’ is the study of solar coronal mass ejections.

And that reminded me of a comment quoted by many people recently, including a Mr Ellis of Southend

Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when our footprints are on the moon.

And that reminded me of one of my favourite ever quotes. Writing a piece covering the ludicrous situation the occurred when a teacher was not allowed by his school authorities to take his class outside an annular eclipse, journalist Sue Nelson commented

When children have their noses in books while the Universe is telling them to come out and play, we know something is going badly wrong

“while the Universe is telling them to come out and play.”

Yeah – the Universe is constantly telling us to come out and play, you know.

And education about the Universe is important, such as Monty Python’s wonderful Galaxy Song:

But, and it’s an important “but”, you should ensure your education is accurate. And for that, we need to go to someone like Paul Kohlmiller, who has analysed the Galaxy Song for us and judged its veracity.

I like it more every time I read it.

Enjoy the Universe – it’s where you’re living. Don’t forget to play in it once in a while.

In what’s become a habit (too soon, I think, to call it a tradition), something to make you smile. I only wish I knew the names of the many, many contributors or the person who compiled it. But, alas, I don’t.

History Of The World until 1914
(compiled from student howlers)

The inhabitants of Egypt were called mummies. They lived in the Sarah Dessert and travelled by Camelot. The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere, so certain areas of the dessert are cultivated by irritation. The Egyptians built the pyramids in the shape of a huge triangular cube. The Pyramids are a range of mountains between France and Spain.

The Bible is full of interesting caricatures. In the first book of the Bible, Guinesses, Adam and Eve are created from an apple tree. One of their children, Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s son?” God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Montezuma. Jacob, son of Isaac, stole his brother’s birthmark. Jacob was a patriarch who brought up his twelve sons to be patriarchs, but they didn’t take to it.

One of Jacob’s sons, Joseph, gave refuse to the Israelites. Pharaoh forced the Hebrew slaves to make bread without straw. Moses led them to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients. Afterwards, Moses went up to Mount Cyanide to get the Ten Commandments. David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. He fought with the Philatelists, a race of people who lived in Biblical times. Solomon, one of David’s sons, had 500 wives and 500 porcupines.

Without the Greek’s, we wouldn’t have history. The Greeks invented three kinds of columns – Corinthian, Doric and Ironic. They also had myths. A myth is a female moth. One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intolerable. Achilles appears in “The Iliad”, by Homer. Homer also wrote “The Oddity” in which Penelope had the last hardship that Ulysses endured on his journey. Actually Homer was not written by Homer, but by another man of that name.

Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock.

In the Olympic Games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the biscuits and threw the java. The reward to the victor was a coral wreath. The government of Athen was undemocratic because the people took the law into their own hands. There were no wars in Greece, as the mountains were so high they couldn’t climb over to see what their neighbours were doing. When they fought the Parisians, the Greeks were outnumbered because the Persians had more men.

Eventually, the Ramones conquered the Greeks. History calls people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long. At Roman banquets, the guests wore garlic in their hair. Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefield of Gaul. The Ides of March killed him because they thought he was going to be made king. Nero was a cruel tyranny who would torture his subjects by playing the fiddle to them.

Then came the Middle Ages. King Alfred conquered the Dames, King Arthur lived in the Age of Shivery, King Harold mustarded his troops before the Battle of Hastings. Joan of Arc was canonised by George Bernard Shaw and the victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks. Finally the Magna Carta provided that no free man should be hanged twice for the same offence. In midevil times, most of the people were alliterate. The greatest writer of the time was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and verse and also wrote literature. Another take tells of William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son’s head.

The Renaissance was an age in which more individuals felt the value of their human being. Martin Luther was nailed to the church door at Wittenberg for selling papal indulgences. He died a horrible death, being excommunicated by a bull. It was the painter Donatello’s interest in the female nude that made him the father of the Renaissance. It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented the Bible. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes. Another important invention was the circulation of blood. Sir Frances Drake circumcised the world with a 100-foot clipper.

The government of England was a limited mockery. Henry VIII found walking difficult because he had an abbess on his knee. Queen Elizabeth was the “Virgin Queen”. As a queen, she was a success. When Elizabeth exposed herself before her troops, they all shouted “Hurrah”. Then her navy went out and defeated the Spanish Armadillo.

The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespear. Shakespear never made much money, and is famous only for his plays. He lived in Windsor with his merry wives, writing tragedies, comedies and errors. In one of Shakespear’s famous plays, Hamlet rations out his situation by relieving himself in a long soliloquy. In another, Lady Macbeth tries to convince Macbeth to kill the king by attacking his manhood. Romeo and Juliet are examples of a heroic couplet. Writing at the same time as Shakespear was Miguel Cervantes. He wrote “Donkey Hote”. The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote “Paradise Lost”. Then his wife died and he wrote “Paradise Regained”.

During the Renaissance, America began. Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic. His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Fe. Later the Pilgrims crossed the Ocean, and this was called the Pilgrims’ Progress. When they landed at Plymouth Rock, they were greeted by the Indians, who came down the hill, rolling their war hoops before them. The Indian squabs carried porpoises on their back. Many of the Indian heroes were killed, along with their cabooses, which proved very fatal to them. The winter of 1620 was a hard one for the settlers. Many people died and many babies were born. Captain John Smith was responsible for all of this.

One of the causes of the Revolutionary War was the English put tacks in their tea. Also, the colonists would send their parcels through the post without any stamps. During the war, Red Coats and Paul Revere was throwing balls over stone walls. The dogs were barking and the peacocks crowing. Finally, the colonists won the war and no longer had to pay for taxis.

Delegates from the original thirteen states formed Contented Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence.. Franklin had gone to Boston carrying all his clothes in his pocket and a loaf of bread under each arm. He invented electricity by rubbing cats backwards and declared “A horse that is divided against itself cannot stand.” Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.

George Washington married Martha Curtis and in due time became the Father of Our Country. Then the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility. Under the Constitution, the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms.

Abraham Lincoln became America’s greatest Precedent. Lincoln’s mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin he built with his own hands. When Lincoln was President, he wore only a tall silk hat. He said “In onion, there is strength.” Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address while travelling to from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope. He also signed the Emasculation Proclamation, and the Fourteenth Amendment gave the ex-Negroes citizenship. But the Clue Clux Clan would torcher and lynch the ex-Negroes and other innocent victims. On the night of April 14 1865, Lincoln went to the Theatre and got shot in the seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposedly insane actor. This ruined Booth’s career.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the enlightenment was a reasonable time. Voltare invented electricity and also wrote a book called “Candy”. Gravity was invented by Isaac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the Autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.

Back was the most famous composer in the world, and so was Handel. Handel was half German, half Italian and half English. He was very large. Bach died from 1750 to the present. Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.

France was in a very serious state. The French Revolution was accomplished before it happened. The Marseillaise was the theme song of the French Revolution and it catapulted into Napoleon. During the Napoleonic Wars, the crowned heads of Europe were trembling in their shoes. Then the Spanish gorillas came down from the hills and nipped at Napoleon’s flanks. Napoleon became ill with bladder problems and was very tense and unrestrained. He wanted an heir to inherit his power, but since Josephine was a baroness, she couldn’t bear him any children.

The sun never sets on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West. Queen Victoria was the longest Queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years. Her reclining years and finally the end of her life were exemplary of a great personality. Her death was the final event which ended her reign.

The nineteenth century was a time of many great inventions and thoughts. The invention of the steamboat caused a network of rivers to spring up. Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick Raper, which did the work of a hundred men. Samuel Morse invented a code for telepathy. Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis. Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the “Organ of the Species”. Madman Curie discovered radium and Karl Marx became one of the Marx Brothers.

The First World War, caused by the assignation of the Arch-Duck by a surf, ushered in a new error in the anals of human history.

Fascinating evening last night, spent in the company of friends, and also people whose combined brain-power could probably supply small cities if they put their minds to it.

It’s Internet Week Europe this week. Did you know that? That was just one, and one of the less important at that, facts I learned last night at Tomorrow’s World, an event put on in London by BERG, a small company, again staffed by very intelligent, very nice people.

As they put it on their site,

BERG is a design consultancy, working hands-on with companies to research and develop their technologies and strategy, primarily by finding opportunities in networks and physical things.

Thing is, to sum them up like that is a bit like summing up the current financial problems in Europe as “not exactly ideal”. True as far as it goes, but there’s far, far more to it (and them) than that. Take a stroll around their website – you’ll find something to reward you.

Last night’s event was a series of ten minute talks (well, ok, they were supposed to be ten minute talks, they turned out to be more like fifteen, not a minute wasted though) on the simple – deviously simple – topic of “The near-future of…”

There was a truly fascinating talk on “The near-future of toy design” by Alice Taylor of MakieLab, a presentation on “The near future of design” by Karsten Schmidt, a mind-changing (at least for me) talk by Fiona Romero of the National Maritime Museum on “the near future of citizen science” and a brief but superb lecture (and this was the only one where I felt like a student, listening to a master of the field) on “The Near-Future New Aesthetic” by James Bridle.

And that was just the first half.

Yeah.

During the break, managed to catch up properly with some friends, and others I haven’t seen for way too long, including Laurie Penny, of whom I wrote last week.

Now, if I was a member of parliament (heaven forbid) making a speech in the House of Commons, at this point, I’d have to to declare an ‘interest’, since the first two speakers after the break are both close friends.

Warren Ellis is a man I’ve known since just before our respective children (both now sixteen) were born. If I were to sum up just what this man’s done for me in terms of advice, help, kicks-up-the-arse when required and just generally being there when needed, I’d not finish writing for some days. But funnily enough, I’d never seen him deliver a talk, so was looking forward to his talk on “The near future of pop culture” enormously. He didn’t disappoint, though I don’t know how many others in the room even came close to appreciating his comments about his daughter’s views on pop and how not only are they different to his, not only should they be different from his, but how they barely speak the same ‘language’ about it. And yeah – Phil’s views on culture are so different from my own that they might be coming from two different species, not merely two different people of some 30 years’ difference in age.

Jamais Cascio is best described as a futurist – and his book, Hacking The Earth remains the only climate change book that’s hooked me from the first page until the last. He delivered a ten minute summary of his view on why geo-engineering matters, and how, if we are the gods of our planet, we’re of the Greek gods variety, complete with all the weaknesses thereof. He ended his comments with

“We’d better sort this out in the twenty-first century… or we’ll not be around for the twenty-second.

The final speaker, Russell Davies rounded up the evening with a talk about the near future of personal/public tech (or at least how it ended up) and the tack was truly interesting.

All around, an incredibly fascinating evening that’s had me thinking all bloody day about the subjects, the implications and the potential just waiting for all us out there if only we’re prepared to look for it.

I suspect I’ll return to this again soon… sometime in, if you’ll forgive me, the near future.

I can’t remember when I first became aware of Laurie Penny as a writer – certainly it was some time before I met her in person and discovered that she’s as bright, intelligent, funny and passionate about her beliefs in person as in her writing for the New Statesman and The Guardian among others.

In all honesty, I should say that when we did meet, at a drink up with several other people, organised by mutual friends, it wasn’t an entirely delightful experience: after telling me that accountants in companies only cared about exploiting the staff, she was less than amused when I told her my job. An awkward few minutes followed, after which we chatted about something less… volatile.

I don’t always agree with her writings – let’s be fair, we were unlikely to agree if only because we hold vastly different political views – and there are times I think she’s naïve, to be blunt, and over romanticises “the struggle”. But as a general rule, I like how she writes, and she makes me think, something I can’t say about that many columnists. Her columns almost always make me revisit my own views and sometimes, rarely, she changes my mind on an issue.

I mentioned a week or so ago

Now I know that there are numbered rules of the Internet, but I’ve come to think there are only two that really matter: (1) Wil Wheaton’s “Don’t be a dick.” and (2) “Never read the comments.”

A look at the comments (or indeed twitter responses) after many of Laurie’s pieces will demonstrate the wisdom of rule (2) above. Rather than attacking her arguments (a valid form of discourse, I think you’d agree), so many of the comments tend to attack her personally, revelling in the insults, to the point where I begin to wonder whether ad hominem comments have become these writers’ first option rather than a last resort.

A piece she wrote in 2010, and reposted online this week, serves to illustrate the point. Laurie wrote about why she doesn’t wear a poppy. She didn’t say in the piece, but did say online later, that she donates to The British Legion, but I think that’s irrelevant.

Going back to my own writings for a moment, I also wrote that I loathe online emotional guilt-tripping, and the belief held by many that if you don’t positively protest against something, that inherently means you actively support it. I don’t think it’s too far a step to extend that to say that you can support something without explicitly saying so. Of course, if you don’t explicitly state that, you can’t expect people to guess that you support it. However, neither should anyone – as some with no justification often do – assume that you are opposed to “it”, whatever “it” happens to be.

In the case of Laurie’s article, I don’t for one moment believe that she has no respect for those who fought on behalf of this country; she just doesn’t believe that wearing a poppy is necessary, and indeed she believes (or so I infer) that it’s become a political necessity to wear one, and the hypocrisy of government ministers wearing poppies whilst continuing to treat the armed forces and those who serve with little or no respect demeans the respect held by others, and is sickening. And she does not wish to add to that.

Fair enough, that’s her view. As I said, I don’t always agree with her.

As it happens, I don’t wear a poppy either; however, unlike her, I’m not about to state whether or not I donate to The British Legion. That’s my choice, and I choose to keep my charitable donations to myself. I’m sorry, but you have no automatic right to know. However, I don’t feel it necessary to wear a poppy to respect those who served. Again, that’s my choice, and while I wouldn’t be trite and say “they fought so I could have the choice”, I still believe that I have every right to hold that opinion, and you have every right to criticise that opinion; however, you do not get to criticise me personally. Not and still maintain any self-respect. You don’t get to state that you wish nazis had bayoneted me, and you’d want to watch it. You don’t any justifiable defence when you write that I’m a hitlerite, or suggest that my face and my arse are interchangeable, or to describe me personally using short hand descriptions of the female genitalia.

But you know what? All of those were said about, and to, Laurie.

I wish I could believe that had the column been written by a male columnist, those who attacked her personally would have written the same responses, but you know what? I don’t believe it. Not for a moment. Oh, sure, the article would have been attacked, and possibly some people would have attacked the writer, but I don’t believe that the same level of vileness, of sheer unfettered nastiness would have been the result.

I don’t always agree with Laurie, but far more often then not, she makes me seriously think. And no one who steps forward with their opinions should be attacked personally. Attack the opinions, certainly, but not the person.

And even if there were no other reasons, for those reasons alone, Laurie Penny is worth supporting.

Hold the inside page!

Posted: 31 October 2011 in internet, media, world
Tags: , ,

Muammar Gaddafi is dead. So is Phillip Tataglia. Moe Green. Stracci. Cuneo. All the heads of the five families.

Ok, forgive me the misquote from The Godfather, but the fuss/outrage over the choice of newspapers to put pictures of the beaten and bloodied corpse of the first of those listed above on their front pages continues to roll on, and everyone seems to have their opinions.

So I might as well give mine, in a slightly longer format than that allowed by the 140 characters of Twitter.

Everyone has their opinions, and like backsides, although everyone has them, not all are of equal weight, and airing them in public doesn’t necessarily benefit hugely these who own them.

I was about to suggest that it’s become one of those matters where people reach an instant opinion, and then it becomes almost embarrassing to say “you know what? Time and the strength of argument has changed my mind”, but today, I saw the Guardian’s readers editor has indeed changed his opinion. In Roy Greenslade’s column, he reports Chris Elliot as saying:

“On reflection – and having read the complaints – I feel less convinced about the way we used these photographs, although I still feel strongly that they are an important part of this story and should have been used.

The scale of the photo on the newspaper front page of 21 October and prominent picture use on the website took us too close to appearing to revel in the killing rather than reporting it.

And that is something that should feature in our deliberations the next time – and there will be a next time – such a situation arises.”

Greenslade, I have to say, hasn’t changed his mind at all. He says

“I didn’t see it that way then, and I don’t now. I remain convinced that it was a valid journalistic response to this most extraordinary of news stories to publish the picture and to publish it big on the front page.

I take on board the worries about revelling in the death (as in The Sun). But it would have been astonishing for newspapers to have failed to carry such a crucial news image.”

And then today, Matt Lucas waded into the argument, posting a blog entry – his first, and I give him full credit for choosing such a topic for his first entry – in which he argues that, simply, news media should not, as a matter of principle, revel in death. If death has occurred, then report it certainly, but not with horrific images repeated again and again on television, not with gruesome images on the front page where people have no choice but to see they as they pass newsagents, or in a supermarket.

Now, while I have some sympathy with the opinion aired, I’m afraid that Lucas, like many of those commentators who have shown disdain to newspapers recently, has entirely missed the central point.

He’s posted a whinge, a oh why isn’t the world like I want it to be? I’ll forgive him his resort to Godwin’s Law in his response to being queried, simply because I can’t believe he could possibly have known about it. However, that central point?

Newspapers are not in the business of not offending. They’re not in the business of being nice. They’re not in the business of caring whether nor caring if someone thinks their front page distasteful.

Newspapers are in the business of making money.

Simple as that. The only reason they stuck that photo on the front page was because they thought they’d make money doing so. Or, given that everyone else was doing it, they thought that their own circulation would go down if they didn’t do it.

I’m not aware of any advertisers pulling their adverts because of that front page. I’d be very surprised if any had. I’m not aware of any successful boycott campaign because of those pictures.

(On that specific area, a friend made the very sensible point that it’s unlikely that where some tabloids were concerned, it’s unlikely either of us would know that many people who bought the paper anyway. To which the only response can’t be, well then, the newspapers concerned wouldn’t give a shit about us anyway, would they?)

To the other argument, that’s it’s amusing that one half of Little Britain and Come Fly With Me is complaining about being offended by something a media organisation has done, I would argue that he would suggest that at least people have the choice whether or not to watch his television programmes; by putting those photos on the front page, the newspapers effectively removed the choice from the public as to whether or not they saw them.

Ok, defence over – I’m sure Lucas wouldn’t give a damn what I thought (it was to me that he said, after all, that my argument was comparable to saying that the Nazis were right because people voted for them.)

However, nowhere have I said that the newspapers were right. As a matter of fact, I think they were morally bankrupt, using those photos on the front page, or at all. Apart from anything else, they’ve left themselves wide open to a charge of hypocrisy the next time they say that seeing violent images causes the young to become more violent. They should be ashamed of themselves. And I’m sure they would be, had they a shred of understanding.

However, they don’t.

Newspapers are, as I said above, solely in the business of selling newspapers, of making revenue.

I would be astonished if for that week, or indeed the weeks following, there was a drop in newspaper revenues (materially beyond that decline affecting all newspapers as the Internet continues to bite into their market).

It’s been said before that a society gets the media that it deserves, and to a point, that’s true.

What’s certainly true is that as long as enough people choose to continue to buy a newspaper, and as long as enough advertisers choose to continue to advertise in that newspaper, the newspaper will receive no message other than “we like what you’re doing – more please!”

The demise of the News Of The World proved that as soon as enough people stop buying the newspaper, as soon as enough advertisers pull their advertising, the newspaper receives another message.

But for as long as the newspapers receive that first message, we’ll continue to see more images like that of Gaddafi on the front page, and that of a dead Michael Jackson on the front page, and horrifically detailed pictures of celebrities in the midst of tragedy on the front page, simply because there’s no financial reason for the newspapers not to put them there.