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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

IT shocker

I've just read that BSkyB has bought Alan Sugar's company for £125 million.

So, would that make Rupert Murdoch the first person to buy an Amstrad in about 20 years?

Casting Ouch

Beowulf. An Old English heroic epic poem composed around 1100 AD, in which Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, battles three antagonists: Grendel, who is destroying Heorot and its inhabitants in Denmark, Grendel's mother, and a dragon.

What’s the first thing that springs to your mind when you consider this incredible piece of literature?

NOT Angelina Jolie, you say? Really?

You do surprise me.

'Finally, an Angelina Jolie movie her kids can watch. Jolie has signed on to star in a big-screen adaptation of the epic English poem "Beowulf" to be directed by Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump").'


'The film, like Zemeckis' previous movie, "The Polar Express," will use performance-capture technology to transform live acting into computer animation, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The story of the Scandinavian hero of the sixth century who slays a beast will star Ray Winstone ("Sexy Beast") as Beowulf, who saves the Danes from Grendel the monster, portrayed by the always creepy Crispin Glover ("Willard," "Charlie's Angels").
Jolie, who played Colin Farrell's youngish mother in "Alexander," will again portray a maternal character in the film, taking on the role of Grendel's mom.'

[GRENDEL’S MOM. MOM. I need a sit down].

'The cast also includes Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright Penn and John Malkovich. The movie is scheduled for a 2007 release.'

Monday, July 30, 2007

Size Matters

"Instead of Spiderman or Bratz dolls, children in the US could soon be clutching a talking Jesus toy, a bearded Moses or a muscle-bound figure of Goliath.
From the middle of August, Wal-Mart, the biggest toy retailer in the US, will for the first time stock a full line of faith-based toys...
The market is notoriously hard to crack, with every child wanting what their friends at school have and high-profile brands like Transformers and Spiderman dominating marketing.
So will the 12in (30cm) Jesus doll quoting scripture or the 3in (8cm) figure of Daniel in the lion's den open up children's imaginations - and their parents' wallets?"

Am I the only person who wants to know why Jesus gets given a full 12 inches and Daniel only gets three? I mean, I know he was, as the story has it, quite a wizened old chap (and he did live in a cave, which everyone knows isn't good for your health), but I wasn't aware that Jesus was a bloody GIANT.

Or maybe I'm misreading it, and the bloke's just lucky?

Madonna - baby thieving update

This, from an outraged 'Grazia' magazine article:

"Madonnna has been quick to admit that adopting Malawian baby David Banda was one of the most difficult decisions she's ever had to make... Now, in order to win complete custody of the two year old, Madonna must open the doors of her £7 million home to a complete stranger so he can scrutinise her suitability as David's mother."

Erm.... yes. Being assessed "by a total stranger" is what is commonly known as a vital and entirely standard part of the adoption process.

Only difference is, if you're not rich and famous, they tend to want to assess your parental suitability BEFORE you get to bundle the child on a plane and take it home.


Now, I know it’s terribly unimaginative to attack the BBC these days, but I couldn’t help but notice this lovely piece of creative newswriting. (Tediously, I’m going to have to repeat it in full here for my point to be clear).

A study has apparently been carried out by the BBC in which they wanted to explore the sense of ‘Britishness’ felt by ethnically Asian Britons.

Or rather, they were looking to write a piece about how alienated Asian people feel in Western society.
This would then allow lazy BBC hacks to attack the government’s foreign policy and its position on Iraq and Afghanistan.
It would allow them to write reams and reams of pointless copy criticising what they clearly want to falsely imply is Briton’s unforgiving, intolerant and racially and religiously bigoted society.
Moreover, it would allow them to suggest - once again – that it is Asian Britain’s sense of social alienation that is squarely to blame for the rise in numbers of young Islamic men wanting to commit mass murder on public transport, and nothing at all to do with their exploitation by fundamentalist Islam.

Unfortunately for the BBC’s biased agenda, what they found was that a significant majority of British Asians do, in fact, “feel British”. Indeed, 84% of British Asians stated that they were “satisfied with life in Britain and almost half thought they have more opportunities here” [than where, the survey doesn’t deign to mention].

Oh dear.

But never fear – if the facts don’t fit, we’ll just misrepresent them! Hurrah!

So, rather than the reasonable and accurate “Majority of British Asians are happy with their place in British society”, we get this: “Many Asians ‘do not feel British’”.

Well done, BBC!

'Many Asians 'do not feel British'

More than a third of British Asians do not feel British, a BBC poll suggests.
The research among the under-34s for the Asian Network found 38% of the UK residents of South Asian origin felt only slightly or not at all British.
More than a third agreed to get on in the UK they needed to be a "coconut", a term for somebody who is "brown on the outside but white on the inside".
Yet 84% were satisfied with life in Britain and almost half thought they have more opportunities here.
Half of the South Asians and nearly two-thirds of the white people interviewed agreed it was too easy for immigrants to settle in Britain.

Three-quarters felt their culture was being diluted by living in the UK and nearly half believed white people do not treat them as British.

The poll was commissioned to coincide with the BBC's India and Pakistan '07 season of programmes to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1947 partition of India.

Some 12% of those polled said they considered themselves to be "coconuts".
Meenal Sachdev, director of Connect India - which works with young Asians to strengthen identity - said she did not think British Asians needed to be "coconuts" to be successful.
"Identity can be a tool for success. I feel very confident about being a British Indian," she said.
"Confidence with identity comes down to ability and knowing you have as many opportunities as other people," she added.'
Many British Asians consider themselves to be British but at home they are more in touch with their cultural and ancestral roots.
ICM Research interviewed 500 Asian people aged 16-34 and 235 white people aged 18-34 between 4 and 12 July.

[Journalism students note: just 12% of people agreed that the racially pejorative term ‘coconut’ was relevant to themselves, whether through prompting or not we aren’t told. A mere 12%, and yet the term makes it into one of the first paragraphs of the article. Oh, and then we have the director of Connect India telling us that the term ISN’T relevant to young British Asian experience. So that’s cleared that up.]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

When I'm 64

According to some stockbroking firm's research, young people "don't understand" how much money they're going to need for their retirement.

Is that right? Or is it rather MORE likely that the average 20-30 something in London is so used to being up to their eyeballs in debt, living on their overdraft and wondering when - if ever - they'll be able to afford a studio apartment in Barking that the archaic notion of "retiring" at all seems entirely unlikely to ever happen to them?

"Young people underestimate the amount of money they will need for a comfortable retirement by almost a quarter of a million pounds, research shows.
Nearly half of people in their 20s and 30s (45 percent) have no idea how much they should be saving for their retirement, according to research by execution-only stockbroker Selftrade.
They estimate they will need a lump sum of 262,456 pounds to see them through retirement -- a far cry from the 500,000 pounds needed to receive an annual pension of 25,000 pounds, the average annual income among British workers."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Forget History...'s all about advertising, my friends!

Next week: Bruce Willis's spotlit face to be carved into Stonehenge to promote "Die Hard - The Retirement Years".

'A 180ft chalk figure of Homer Simpson painted beside the famous Cerne Abbas giant in Dorset hasn't gone down well with the Pagan community.
Springfield's own favourite rude man, dressed only in his briefs and brandishing his beloved doughnut, was painted on the hill to promote the new Simpsons movie.
But Pagans are praying for rain to wash away the display next to the Cerne giant, which is considered to be an ancient symbol for fertility.
Ann Bryn-Evans, joint Wessex district manager for The Pagan Federation, said: "We were hoping for some dry weather but I think I have changed my mind.
"We'll be doing some rain magic to bring the rain and wash it away."
She added: "I'm amazed they got permission to do something so ridiculous. It's an area of scientific interest."
The Cerne Abbas giant is the largest figure on a hill in Britain, but it is unknown when it first appeared.'

Go, JK, Go...

Can anyone explain to me what GOOD is going to come from J K Rowling hanging up posters at her book signing of that kid that went missing three months ago in Portugal?
You think large crowds of 10 year old kids are going to go, "Oh, hang on a second, when I was passing through southern portugal on business a few weeks back, I REMEMBER seeing a suspicious looking man and a small blonde child, I shall go to the police immediately"?

The sentiment is, of course, admirable, I wouldn't be churlish enough to deny that. Plus, it will give useful publicity for the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, but I've read several versions of this story in the press today and in none of them does anyone actually attempt to properly explain what it is they hope to achieve in terms of solving this particular case. Apart from (dare I say this?) more publicity for the book launch and yet another opportunity for the tabloids to indulge in media mawkishness.

'Posters of missing Madeleine McCann are to be made available to book retailers around the world at the request of Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
She has arranged, with the help of her publishers, for a poster to be made available for book retailers worldwide.
The posters will be available around July 21, the publication date of the final Harry Potter book.
Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared from an apartment in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, on 3 May.
The poster will display images of Madeleine and a link to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.
Ms Rowling said she hoped thousands of people around the world will see the missing girl's image as they queue for their copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
She said: "I fervently hope that posters displayed prominently in shops all over the world when the new book comes out will help find Madeleine McCann and will help raise the profile of the many other missing children in different countries."
The author has made her request for bookshops to display the pictures through her 65 international publishers.
The McCann family said they were delighted that the world-famous author is launching the poster campaign on their daughter's behalf.
Madeleine's mother, Kate McCann, said: "We are overjoyed by this generous offer and would like to thank JK Rowling, her publishers and book retailers for all they are doing to help.
"Madeleine has the first three Harry Potter books and first three DVDs. Like most other children the world over, she loves the stories."'

On an only marginally related subject, I am, however, glad to see J K flexing her muscles elsewhere.

For a long while, the publishing world was immune to the Mafia-like buying power of our nation's great supermarkets, and as a result, a meagre number of independent bookshops (you know, actual real life shops that sell books) were able to survive on the high street while all around them fishmongers, greengrocers and butchers were closing their doors.

However, as anyone who bothers to open their eyes will see, the supermarkets now control more or less everything we buy, and so over the past several years they have cheerfully been eating into the publishing world too. One of their best tricks is to force publishers to give them their best selling titles as loss leaders - books like the Harry Potter series. Asda then sells them at half their hardback RRP, while smaller bookstore chains and independent stores are obliged to sell them at their cover price.

That banging sound you can hear, people, is the last nail being driven into the coffin of independent bookstore retailing.

JK Rowling, however, is different to most authors (which makes Bloomsbury different to other publishers), on the basis that she's probably the only living author who is actually powerful enough to take on the supermarkets and tell them to fuck off:

'The publisher of the final Harry Potter book has cancelled an order to supply 500,000 copies to Asda supermarkets.
Bloomsbury said it had taken the decision because it had not been paid by the chain.
But Asda claimed the publisher was unhappy that it had criticised the book's price tag of £17.99.
It has assured UK customers the issue will be resolved in time for the book launch on Saturday, although Bloomsbury said "dialogue has not opened yet".
Asda spokesman Ed Watson told BBC Radio Five Live the chain - owned by US giant Wal-Mart - was not aware that the deal had been cancelled, and said the chain's criticisms of Bloomsbury's pricing policy was behind the decision.
He added: "It just seems funny that after we expose the potty Potter price hike, Bloomsbury are trying everything they can to stop kids getting hold of Harry Potter at a price they can afford."
Bloomsbury marketing director Minna Fry said the order had been cancelled due to "invoicing issues", but acknowledged the firm had been annoyed by Asda's comments.
She said: "Asda have had a problem with our pricing of Harry Potter for a while now, and they sent out a very aggressive press release saying that we were ripping off children.
"We think at 608 pages, £17.99 is extremely good value."'

Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's: these companies want to own our entire lives, from what we eat, to what we read, what we wear, even to where we live (Tesco Mortgages, for fuck's sake? Thirty years ago the idea would've been laughable...). The only thing that can truly stop them chewing up and homogonising every aspect of our world is for us as consumers to actually reject them and the hideous lie they propogate that what they give us is 'value', and is 'cheap'.

What they do, and I don't apologise for any hyperbole, is systematically and ruthlessly destroy livelihoods and societies. They do this purely through shareholder greed, in order to fuel their own unstoppable, pointless growth for its own sake. If supermarkets were human and slavishly consumed everything they saw before them until they became giant and grotesquely obese, we'd say they were sick, wouldn't we?

Therefore it is almost - almost - as heartening to see Bloomsbury (and indeed, any sector of the business world affected by the supermarket monster) fighting to hold onto their business as it is to see local schools fighting to stop their playing fields being turned into Tesco carparks.

If you don't want supermarkets to own your world, you've got to fight for it...

Monday, July 16, 2007

We don’t need another (skinny) hero

It has been said many times that people should never meet their heroes. This is true. Equally true, I think, is that one should never read about them either, because that experience is almost always equally disappointing (unless of course your hero is Boris Johnson, in which case you should devour every calculatedly- buffoonish word the man utters).
Today, a ‘hero’ of mine (OK, someone I’d previously quite admired) proved this very point.

Today, the ever lovely model Erin O’Connor is quoted in the paper as saying that it would ‘compromise the dignity’ of models if the fashion industry were to be legally obliged to stick to a minimum-BMI when hiring models for shoots and catwalk shows.

Oh Erin.

Loss of dignity? You truly believe that asking the fashion industry not to chuck sick, emaciated child-women down a catwalk is any less ‘dignified’ than allowing those same naïve little girls to puke and shit themselves into a skeletal shape with the aid of laxatives, amphetamines and a well-placed digit down the throat?
That’s a shame. Not for me, mind, cos I’m middle-aged and I just LOVE a pie, but for those young girls’ equally naïve peers, who read the magazines, see the pictures, and actually believe Victoria Beckham, Nicole Richie et al when they tell us that they are naturally thin and eat saveloy and chips at least thrice weekly.

It’s also truly a shame that Erin sees fit to use the word ‘dignity’ when the inquiry of which she was a part, The Model Health Enquiry, which set out supposedly to address serious problems within the modelling industry, has so stunningly failed to address any of the issues it was supposed to.

Perhaps ironically, given its self-absorbed vanity, the fashion industry is and has always been entirely unable to see its own reflection clearly. (The fable wasn’t called The Emperor’s New Clothes for nothing). Nonetheless, to freely admit that, according to the findings of your own inquiry, “as many as 40% of models may have eating disorders and almost all the models the panel spoke to confessed to having an unhealthy relationship with food”, and to then do NOTHING about it is, in my opinion, rather undignified.

Moreover, what kind of insult to our intelligence - not to mention the democratic process - is it to entrust legislative powers over abuses in the modelling industry to models and their AGENTS?
Sarah Doukas, the head of one of the country’s largest modelling agencies, is against the idea of banning the use of models who’ve been found to have taken drugs, you say? Well now, that does surprise me.

Asking the fashion industry to police itself a bit like asking supermarkets to decide for themselves whether their putting local retailers out of business is anti-competitive.
Oh yeah, the government did that too, didn’t it?

Happy Happy Joy Joy

'Boris Johnson is to enter the race to be the Conservative candidate for London mayor in next year's election.
Mr Johnson, one of the best-known MPs, has confirmed that he wants to take on Labour's Ken Livingstone.
He said he had been "overwhelmed" by the support he had received. He has resigned as a shadow minister, but he is to remain MP for Henley. Mr Johnson is likely to face a number of rivals to be Conservative candidate. The deadline for hopefuls was noon.
In a statement, Mr Johnson said: "I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received from so many people across London."

So, there is a god. And - who knew? - he has a sense of humour.