Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Top 5 proposed front pages for The Independent

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Independent made a courageous decision to stand out from its rivals on the day after the Royal Wedding by using not a photograph of the event, but a drawing by Tracey Emin. The artist is not known for her drawing so much as her installations, but the Indy splashed on the image anyway despite its obvious shortcomings.

Will this become a trend, I wondered. Will Tracey become an artist-in-residence for the newspaper, composing impressionistic works of art in response to every news event? Here is a top 5 of how The Independent might have observed momentous occasions over the last 100 years, from the recent expiry of a certain terrorist mastermind to the sinking of the Titanic.

The killing of Osama bin Laden

September 11, 2001

The Tiananmen Square massacre

The US capture of Iwo Jima

The sinking of the Titanic

Advertisements

Malcolm Tucker in the White House?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Has anyone else noticed, in the widely circulated photograph of President Barack Obama and his staff watching the killing of Osama bin Laden, the presence of Malcolm Tucker, the foul-mouthed spin doctor from The Thick of It, sitting behind Hillary Clinton?

Official captions suggest he is Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser to the President. I don’t usually count myself as a conspiracy theorist, but if you base all your judgment solely on these pictures then something is certainly awry.

Paragraph of last year

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I have just been shown another rather brilliant paragraph from The Times that never made it into print. It reminds me of the time that Martyn Lewis, the former BBC newsreader, appealed for there to be more upbeat stories in the press. One of the newspaper’s Scottish staff wrote:

Organisers have praised lower levels of crime at T in the Park this year, despite the attempted murder of two men as the festival drew to  a close.

Paragraph of the year

Thursday, December 30, 2010

An  acquaintance of mine, T, works for The Times. His job is to vet articles before they go into the paper and weed out howlers. His favourite paragraph of 2010 was this, which speaks for itself:

“He was unique. There will never be another Kenneth McKellar,” said the late singer’s son, Kenneth.

Of Thee I Vomit

Friday, December 17, 2010

Is Barack Obama’s latest book, Of Thee I Sing, an inspirational story that will appeal to the hope of every child, or a jingoistic schmaltz-bath that will leave non-Americans heaving into their hats? It’s somewhere between the two, I’d say, but sufficiently close to the second for me not to want to give my free copy to any of my nieces or nephews. Anyhow, I don’t imagine anyone comes here for reviews of presidential children’s books. (My visitor stats suggest that almost everyone comes here looking for Love Is… cartoons, in fact.)

What struck me is that one of the role models Obama lionises is Georgia O’Keeffe, who “moved to the desert and painted petals, bone, bark. She helped us see big beauty in what is small: the hardness of stone and the softness of feather”. And, he could have added, vaginas in flowers. Maybe in his next book.

Slacktivism

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I don’t like new words like “glamping” and “staycation”. They are portmanteau neologisms invented by marketeers and adopted by insipid lifestyle journalists to lend weight to insubstantial trends.

But I have to admit that “slacktivism” – actions ostensibly in a good cause but too lazy to have a useful effect – has some allure. Several of my friends changed their profile pictures on Facebook recently in the name of protesting against violence to children. The more pious ones posted a message at the same time:

“Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood & invite your friends to do the same, for the NSPCC. Until Monday (6 Dec), there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is a campaign to stop violence against children.”

This may seem like a Good Thing to do, but actually it has more in common with a chain letter than a charitable exercise. There is a small possibility that the people who changed their picture donated money to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (although there was no helpful link to the charity’s giving page) but I suspect that almost everyone who did it gave nothing. It may even be a Bad Thing: some people may feel that their supposedly good actions are a substitute for actual charitable activity.

It is a particularly stupid idea because not only will it fail to prevent the tiniest bit of violence, but it does not even raise awareness of a live issue. No one is in favour of violence against children, except perhaps recruiters of child soldiers and sadists. Even if Joseph Kony and Baby P’s mother were your friends on Facebook, it seems unlikely that this would change their minds.

This campaign wasn’t even supported by the NSPCC, although a spokeswoman did say they were “monitoring the results with interest”. Not that the NSPCC is a faultless charity anyway. More than a quarter of its charitable spending goes on income generation and governance – 28 per cent, in fact. This is way more than the RNLI (20 per cent), Save the Children (13 per cent), Comic Relief (10 per cent) or any other charity I could think of when searching the Charities Commission website. When the NSPCC says that £4 answers a child’s call for help on its telephone helpline Childline, it means that £2.88 answers the child’s call and £1.12 pays a bloke in a brightly coloured bib to hassle people in shopping precincts.

My friend D responded to the Facebook campaign yesterday by changing his profile picture to one of Lionel Richie and suggesting that by doing so he was helping to bring about peace in the Middle East. I followed his lead. I don’t wish to sound presumptious, but does anyone know whether I have to wear white tie at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, or can I just turn up in a suit?

The turd of the Nile

Monday, November 1, 2010

It can be difficult, sometimes, to spot the difference between:

a) an Islamic fundamentalist earnestly bent on mass murder, and

b) a character from a 1980s action-comedy starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.

Is Anwar al-Awlaki, al-Qaeda’s man in Yemen and suspected mastermind of the recent parcel bomb plots, related to the Jewel, the title character in The Jewel of the Nile portrayed by Avner Eisenberg?

Al-Awlaki and Eisenberg were both born in America and Eisenberg is a clown, which, as we all know, is an indicator of evil. On the other hand, Eisenberg is Jewish, which suggests that he and al-Awlaki would struggle to maintain a temperate conversation once talk drifted away from their mutual distaste for pork.

I’m not ruling out a Jekyll and Hyde scenario, but on balance it seems more likely that al-Awalki simply based his image on the Jewel after watching the film as a child. The Jewel is, after all, a religious leader, albeit a humble, peaceful one rather than a self-aggrandising wankpot.

Worst performing parties in the 2010 British General Election

Monday, May 24, 2010

Who did worst in the General Election of 2010? Did the Christians do worse than the Loonies? Did the Communists outdo the Libertarians? And did the banking crisis spur any of the seven socialist parties to any shred of electoral success?

Here, for your pleasure, is the internet’s only guide to the success and (more commonly) failure of the lunatic fringe.

(more…)

Red peril

Friday, May 7, 2010

Amid all the talk of the casualties in the 2010 General Election it is easy to forget the biggest losers: the Communist Party of Britain.

If you thought that David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg had a bad night then imagine what it must feel like for Robert Griffiths. The best that can be said of his party’s results is that they did not come last in every seat they contested. Not quite.

(more…)

Top 5 activities for a visiting Pope

Monday, April 26, 2010

The reporting of jokes contained in a Foreign Office memo about an impending Papal visit to Britain has been pretty po-faced. The memo did indeed feature suggestions that Benedict XVI could open an abortion ward, launch a brand of condoms and bless a gay wedding, but it also contained less offensive and funnier jokes about him doing forward rolls to promote healthy living and apologising for the Spanish Armada.

It may be worthwhile to celebrate this inspired piece of memo-drafting with an alternative top five activities for a visiting Pope.

1. Visit a Portaloo in a wooded area. Possibly with a Catholic bear, if available.

2. Receive a rapturous welcome in Camden from purveyors of witty T-shirts lionising his attested recreational drug use.

3. Have his bottom bitten by a flea, thus vindicating the mawkish song Little People in Les Miserables that makes the point that humble creatures can affect grandees.

4. Burn Protestants. Health and safety advice suggests burning only dead ones at a crematorium.

5. Put up a tent, go on a bicycling holiday, and other activities that may remind him of his formative years in the Hitler Youth.