Cameron in Europe: en route to not much changing at all . . .

Former Newshour presenter extraordinaire Robin Lustig’s blog has a new lease of life now he is unchained from the BBC objectivity police . . . I recommend you bookmark it. Read more

Rediscovered track of the month: Jul ’12

Love/Hate — Blackout in the Red Room
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In Praise of NHK World

I don’t know exactly  when NHK World came to the UK. I suspect it was in 2011 shortly after the tsunami hit Fukushima. I first noticed it on the Freesat service around August 2011 and I’ve been tuning in more and more frequently for the quirky delivery, refreshing bluntness of its reports, strict almost religious devotion to educating the world about Japanese ways and the surprising lack of ads . . . This goes out to NHK World (with apologies to John Cooper Clarke):


I’ve seen all sorts of gadgets, tiny new-fangled

I’ve seen Swiss banks reported — from a Japanese angle


Earthquakes, tsunamis, a vision of nuclear hell

The news somehow sweetened when your R is an L


I’ve been regaled with great tales by the great Konishiki

The Sumo leviathan formerly fat now just freaky


The news as it should be — delivered straight; matter of fact

No bells, no whistles, an occasional lack of tact


Verbally vivacious syllables they struggle to supply

You’ll never hear the world loquacious but I’d like to see ’em try


When it’s daytime in London, it’s half three in Yokohama

The presenters don’t mind, it’s good for the karma


Battling on bravely, eyelids drooping

They look like drugged up clubbers queuing in Tooting


There’s even a cookery show called Itadakimasu

That U is redundant but the food it’s top class


Bickering presenters having a blast

But where the hell in London do you get Okinawan sea grass?


In the cess-pit of state-sponsored TV, propaganda and lies

Hail to one of the good guys — they don’t even advertise!






Rathergate Rumbles on . . .

It’s always nice when a comment points you to something you’d otherwise have missed. Al Dorman’s rather acerbic post here took me on a search across the ocean to a publication called Texas Monthly which has published one of the best examinations of the whole Killian memos/Rathergate debacle I’ve yet seen by Joe Hagan. Read it all here.

It’s a long article so if you’ve not the time then the upshot is:

— the Killian memos were dodgier than a 6 pound note

— there are holes in Dubya’s wartime record.

This latter point is something not even the staunchest Republican would deny and one day we’ll know where George W. Bush spent those missing flight hours. I suspect the answer involves a drink or two, his secret service codename was ‘tumbler’ after all. One other thing I took away from this article, as I pointed out in 2007, Dan is still bitter . . . very bitter and is planning more coal-raking in a forthcoming memoir.

Comic novels: Zahra’s Paradise & My Friend Dahmer

Apart from a teenage Judge Dredd addiction I never was into comic books but in the past 2 weeks I’ve read two:  Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf.

 Zahra’s Paradise is set in the aftermath of Iran’s 2009 troubled elections. At the peak of the violence I was monitoring twitter and other sites for Iranian and world reaction so many of the events described in the book hit home. But if you’re not a follower of the inner workings of Iranian power struggles then this book still works.

The drawings aren’t that sophisticated — fans of Alan Moore’s books and even early DC comics won’t be impressed by the rudimentary black and white inking — but as an introduction to the sheer hassle of daily life in Iran it’s a great tome. The story centres around a mother who tries to find her son after he fails to return home from a street demo. Bribes, humiliation and danger await around every corner as she peels away the layers of stifling bureaucracy. Not bad.

My Friend Dahmer is a tough one to put down. Not for the reasons you think. No grisly details of the serial killer’s exploits are in here, instead you get a very frank account of Dahmer’s school days from a guy who went to school with him. It’s quite clear that the author thinks that the system failed Jeffrey but he never quite strays over the line of saying that the killings were the state’s fault; it’s also obvious that Dahmer made the choices he made purely under his own volition and I’m pretty sure most people’s childhood featured kids from broken homes who hit the bottle too much too young yet still managed to avoid carving up hobos for kicks. Backderf has a nice turn of phrase and some of the pathos is achingly funny like when Backderf describes how Dahmer — future notorious serial killer —  got a date for the prom but he, the author, didn’t. Backderf’s revelation that Dahmer got high school approval from mimicking spastic movements of people with cerebral palsy  should be a warning to anyone thinking of mocking the disabled that this behaviour will put them in very bad company indeed.

RIP Marie Colvin

Reports coming in within the past hour suggest journalists Marie Colvin and  Remi Ochlik have been killed. This comes a day or so after citizen journo Rami al Sayed met his death from Syrian shelling. Like many media folks I tried several times to get hold of Marie over the past few days but comms were difficult, she sent this reply on Monday 20th:

“I’m back in Baba Amr, and the email and skype are working again, Thuraya is up and down. Would be happy to do a phoner any time this week. The latest is that the Syrian troops appear to be massing for a ground assault, although that has been the rumour for  days. They have attempted several forays and been driven back. Shelling and sniping daily. Sickening what they are getting away with. Although the freezing cold is what is now preoccupying me! Is the BBC sending anyone in? I thought Paul Wood did a great job when he was here.”


William Hague’s tribute:

"I am deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic news that Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik
 have been killed while reporting, with great bravery, from Homs in Syria. I offer my heartfelt condolences
 to their families, friends and colleagues as they face this devastating loss. 

"Marie Colvin embodied the highest values of journalism throughout her long and distinguished career as
 a foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times. For years she shined a light on stories that others could
 not and placed herself in the most dangerous environments to do so, including suffering injuries while
reporting in Sri Lanka. She was utterly dedicated to her work, admired by all of us who encountered her,
 and respected and revered by her peers.  Her tragic death is a terrible reminder of the risks that
 journalists take to report the truth. 

"It is also a terrible reminder of the suffering of the Syrian people - scores of whom are dying
 every day. Marie and Remi died bringing us the truth about what is happening to the people of Homs.
 Governments around the world have the responsibility to act upon that truth - and to redouble our
 efforts to stop the Assad regime's despicable campaign of terror in Syria."


Defining Public Life

Kira Cochrane’s well-researched article about gender imbalance has caused much soul-searching. Suzanne Moore has a nice follow-up saying it’s basically because women cannot bulls**t as much as men which I suspect is true although here in Bush House everyone has their own internal list of rent-a-gobs with more than a few women on it.

Recognising fully that Kira almost certainly didn’t choose the headline ‘Why is British Public Life Dominated by Men’ I was prepared to see the column as a pretty good expose of an incestuous, south-east-based media elite which, as a relative newcomer to the  industry, I’m starting to recognise more and more and which I suspect was at some point fed into the decision-making of  those who decided large chunks of the BBC should be relocated in Manchester.

But Kira gives the game away when she says “The fewer women there are in the public eye, the more anomalous they look when they do appear.” I’m not surprised at Kira’s definition because — like me — she’s in the thick of it but if you think public life is the Today programme, Mock the Week and newspaper columnists then there are deeper pathologies at play. The article says more about the circles Kira moves in than anything else.

There are a great many more public institutions here in the UK than print and TV media. I’d like to see Kira’s analysis applied to say the NHS or local governments. My anecdotal experience of senior hospital staff (Kings in Camberwell) or working with councils (South Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire back in the early noughties) suggests that the imbalance isn’t so stark and might even go the other way.


Reporting Joplin’s Tornado

Brian Stelter of the NY Times writes about how he tweeted/reported/uploaded the story of Joplin’s tornado.

What the immeasurably modest Mr stelter doesn’t record is that at 0100 Joplin time on the morning of Tuesday 24th (0700 BST) I was sitting in Bush House in London and saw his tweets live and e-Mailed him asking him if he’d like to do a quick phoner with BBC World Service.  I knew he was awake because tweets uploaded ‘1 minute ago’ aren’t the work of sleepwalkers. Brian was about to fly out of Missouri so without delay I got Brian to record a short piece looking down Joplin’s Main St and it was powerful and evocative. . . so good in fact that at the suggestion of my editor I sequenced Brian’s reporting into a 2.5 minute montage of the whole Torando scariness. you can hear that montage here:

The last two voices in the montage are Brian’s and it was a great end to the montage.

Thanks for your tweets Brian.

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