Archive for March, 2009


Big Man Japan!

March 31, 2009

Ok, here’s the trailer…

…but the following scene is the thing I wanted to bring to your attention. My God, it’s funny. It’s so naturalistic! Like a cop speaking to a drunk in a documentary.

When this comes out on DVD, I am so there.

(via You Tube Reviewed)


The Arc of The Covenant

March 30, 2009


There are things that rule, and there are things that rule the things that rule.  This rules the things that rule the things that rule.

The Mystery Man On Film site has just put up a link to a very special PDF. It is, if you can believe this shit right here, the transcript of the original, five-day, 1978 story conference for ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.

That’s right, you insanely lucky human beings. We’re talking 125 pages of Spielberg, Lucas and Kasdan sitting around, shooting the shit, and creating a legend.

I mean, come ON! If you know of anything cooler than this on the internet right now, well…I hate to call someone a liar but…you’re a LIAR!

Link to Mystery Man site. Link to PDF

(Sorry about the  subject heading…couldn’t resist it, even though it doesn’t really make any sense.)


Charlie Brooker’s awesome TV News takedown

March 26, 2009

Saw this last night and it blew me away. Bravo, Charlie (er, Alpha).


Coming late to the party, but still…

March 25, 2009

My favourite line: “The portrait of Brian Cowen, who is not thought to have posed for the anonymous artist….”

(More here.)


Apology noted. Now what?

March 24, 2009

Well, for whatever reason, the Express apologised for the Dunblane story on Sunday. Here’s the link. Take a moment to read it.

This is certainly an apology, and it was advertised on the front page, which is enough like the first demand on our petition to get by. For that reason, we’re shutting it down on Saturday and handing it in next week. Matt Nida, who drafted the petition, will deliver it to Express Group Newspapers, the PCC and Downing Street so as to show the strength of feeling that this story has induced in over 10,000 people in a single week.

So, if you feel strongly about this issue and you haven’t already signed the petition, you’ve only got a few days left in which to do so.

However, before that date, we felt it important to leave a few questions hanging in the air. Over to Matt Nida:

“I think the apology is inadequate. It dodges the issue of what was wrong with the original article, fails to provide a satisfactory explanation for how this piece happened, holds nobody to account for its publication and offers no reassurance that this won’t happen again.

It opens with a deeply saccharine mission statement:

It is 81 years since the first edition of this great newspaper rolled off the presses in Glasgow. Over that time, we have established a reputation for crusading journalism built on the twin cornerstones of honesty and integrity. Scottish Sunday Express readers expect us to shine a light on the wrongs in our society, to expose the crooks, highlight the hypocrites and to give everyone the odd chuckle with the extraordinary stories that ordinary Scots so often have to tell.

Even if these are the principles that guide the newspaper’s editorial process, it’s hard to see how anyone could have presumed that the Dunblane article fulfilled any one of these criteria. The Dunblane survivors have done nothing wrong, nor are they crooks or hypocrites. And the piece certainly wasn’t funny.

Additionally, the Bebo/Facebook postings would not have come to light had Paula Murray not been actively looking for them – further evidence that her intention was to muck-rake on a group of people previously sheltered from press scrutiny, rather than bring to light a “wrong in our society”.

It is also hugely important to us that the Scottish Sunday Express reflects the feelings of the people of Scotland.

This masks the issue, suggesting that the problem with the article was that it misjudged what people wanted to read. That the paper mis-read its readers’ feelings is immaterial; it flat-out contravened at least two points of the PCC code and used the intrusion on private individuals as the basis for an entirely self-constructed story. It is an open and shut case, yet the SSE is attempting to paint it in shades of grey.

It is our belief that nobody was misquoted.

A transparent attempt to rescue Paula Murray’s journalistic integrity. Who does this refer to? If it’s MSP Elizabeth Smith, she claimed that her words had been taken out of context, not misquoted – a crucial difference. If it’s the survivors themselves, then the accuracy is irrelevant – they were selectively quoted to support a spurious moral argument.

The Scottish Sunday Express is a big newspaper, with a long and illustrious history. We are also big enough to say we are truly sorry.

In many ways, this sums up the problems with the apology – it’s an attempt to recast this as a one-off piece of poor judgement by a cosy cottage-industry rather than a cynical piece of manufactured outrage that has backfired badly. The following questions remain:

– The article was written and filed by Paula Murray. It would presumably have then been passed through at least one sub-editor, before being signed off by editor Derek Lambie, who deemed it appropriate for the front page. Are we supposed to believe that all of these people innocently made the same mistake? It suggests a wholesale institutional failure of the editorial process that needs urgent correction.

– Neither does it indicate what action has been taken to prevent this happening again. Will it be adhering more closely to the PCC code in future? If the paper won’t acknowledge its contravention of the code and publicly bind itself to its principles, then this voluntary agreement has been rendered worthless.

– Finally, this is a public apology – but to the readers. SSE’s readership may well have been offended by the article, but a far greater wrong was done to the individuals named in the article. The paper claims to have apologised privately (and note the “where possible” caveat – given that the whole basis of the article was Murray’s access to their social networking profiles, the paper will definitely have some form of contact details for each and every one of the people named), but if the piece was “undeniably inappropriate”, don’t its victims at least deserve an apology as public and prominent as the humiliation meted out to them in the first place?”

Back to me. I don’t have much to add to that, except to say that this is not an isolated case of some crazy hacks, or even a crazy paper, getting out of control. This is simply an extreme example of the state that journalism in the UK has found itself in. In the comments section on my original post, some have expressed concern at the prospect of press regulation, arguing that it’s a slippery slope that ultimately leads to State censorship,  but we would argue that the system of self-regulation as it stands has led to a press that does not take its responsibilities seriously and as a result can not be trusted to pursue the stories that need to be pursued. It’s a different slippery slope, and the Express story marked the point at which the press were sitting at the bottom of it.

Think about it…what have the press done for us lately? Have they been diligently scrutinizing the emergence and workings of the surveillance state? Or have they been pursuing Madeline McCann’s parents for some crazy reason? Did it clear up the confusion about the MMR vaccine, or did it add to the panic?  In other words, what exactly are we protecting by not asking for a better system of regulation?

There are plenty of good, responsible journalists out there who are looking at the Express saga with the same resigned disgust that most of us felt when we first came upon the story. They need to be part of this conversation too. If not, the conversation will be held elsewhere, out of their earshot and beyond their influence. That won’t be good for journalism, and it won’t be good for society. But whether they turn up or not, the conversation will happen. It has to.

Anyway, as I was saying, four more days if you’d like to sign the petition. Here’s the link again.

(Thanks to Elena for giving this the once-over)



March 23, 2009

(via Everything Is Terrible)


Thank you, mysterious stranger!

March 21, 2009

Someone with the internetty name of Idea15 wrote a brilliant comment on my original post about the Dunblane/Express saga.

“This campaign has to succeed. If not, the road ahead for these kids just got a lot darker. The Sunday Express has served notice that the downmarket stalker press considers them fair game for the rest of their lives. Whatever successes they enjoy will be trumped up as being down to their hardy survivor spirit, and whatever failures they endure will be chalked up to the psychological damage of the shooting. Their sadnesses will be exploited as “heartbreak for tragic Dunblane victim”. You can just see the headlines now, and for decades to come. If the media gets the message right here right now that these kids are not fair game for lifelong exploitation because they happened to be in one room for one hour aged five, they can continue to live normal lives. Who knows, some of the papers might even have to go dig up real stories, not manufacture the problem.”

Exactly. You would imagine that we wouldn’t have to remind the press of such an obvious point, but apparently, we do. So if you haven’t already, please think about signing the petition to call the Express to account. (8,749 signatories at last count!)


Goodnight, all.

March 21, 2009

The quality’s terrible, I wish I had a version without the on-screen clutter, and the arrival of the pinky ponk will probably bemuse anyone who doesn’t have kids, but what the hey…nothing can diminish the beauty of this title sequence.

This goes out as a special thank you to everyone who has signed the Express/Dunblane petition (8226 of you, at last count).

And thanks also to the BBC, for caring enough about our children to make this show.


It’s working…

March 20, 2009

Exciting news! Apparently, there will be an apology in this week’s Sunday Express about the Dunblane story! Let’s see if they give it the prominence they gave the original piece (front page) and take appropriate action against the people responsible.

Meanwhile, I had a thought. At the moment, we have almost 6000 signatures on the petition. Not bad going for something that’s only been up three or four days, but I thought that number might increase if we bring in people who aren’t on Twitter/regularly checking blogs/etc. To that end, perhaps you would consider taking a few moments out of your day to spread the word.

Just pick four or five friends or family who you’re pretty sure aren’t hugely up to speed with the interwebs, and send them the link to the petition via e-mail along with an explanation (my original blog post, or anything you think brings the point home). Don’t ask them to send it on…leave that up to them. If it starts to look like a chain letter, it’ll be easier to ignore. The personal touch is what’s needed here, I think.

And remember, there is no reason as yet to let up on The Express. While an apology is obviously a good start, we need to know what safeguards they are putting in place to ensure that nothing like this happens again, and how the journalist (Paula Murray) and the editor (Derek Lambie) will be punished for their appalling lack of moral judgement.

Thanks again for listening, and for signing the petition.

(Update: We just got two over  two thousand signatures in one day. Thank you all so much!)


I’m possibly beginning to see why people don’t like Toby Young

March 19, 2009

Oooh! The little liar!  Today, he went on Radio 4 and slagged off ‘Bad Movie Club’, which I ran a while back on Twitter. It was an idea I wanted to try out which I thought might be interesting. I may do another one sometime if an appropriate movie comes up, and we succeed in improving the experience for everyone involved… you know, so that the whole thing isn’t just witless banter. I’ve not done one since and there haven’t been any unofficial @badmovieclub screenings on Twitter either.

However, even though Bad Movie Club has only happened once, Toby Young has somehow been tuning in since the 13th of February, and has developed some thoughts on it. (Link to piece on his blog, now prefaced with a bit of back-pedalling about recording the radio 4 piece some months ago, but nothing about the post he put up this afternoon.)

“Which brings me to the Bad Movie Club. Every Friday evening, several thousand people all over the country sit down and watch a bad movie and share their thoughts about it on Twitter. A DVD is selected by the Club which then issues strict instructions about when to start the playback so everyone’s watching it at the same time. After that, hilarity ensues.

At the risk of sounding like a prig, I do think there’s something a bit odious about this. The Bad Movie Club is an opportunity for a group of urban sophisticates to advertise just how superior their taste is to that of the hoi poloi. The films selected are often Hollywood blockbusters, which no doubt adds to their pleasure since it enables them to pour scorn on the great unwashed across the pond at the same time. Come on chaps. Let’s get together and exchange witty putdowns about the execrable garbage that passes for “culture” in America.”

The underlining is mine.

Ah, Toby…Toby, Toby, Toby…don’t you know what the Internet is? Don’t you know that you can’t get away with the same journalistic bluffs that have got you into the position you’re in, eating bugs on telly and whatnot? I used to be a journalist and I did my share of bluffing my way through a topic I knew nothing about, but the times, they are a changin’, Toby! You’ve got to be more careful!

Later on, you describe these imaginary, regular get-togethers as comprising of “witless banter”. Thanks for the heads-up. We know now how the witless will tend to describe us if and when we decide to do a second one.

By the way, you spelled “hoi polloi” wrong.

(Update: On Twitter, Toby just wrote this “I wasn’t slagging off Twitter, merely @badmovieclub. My timing was off since it appears to have spontaneously combusted.” Stop digging, Toby!)