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

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.

Kate Moss and Nazism

Monday, April 25, 2011

I should point out for legal reasons that Kate Moss is not, at least to my knowledge, a Nazi. She is merely the face of a company named after one.

Hugo Boss was a card-carrying member of the Nazi Party, and not in a he-had-to-join-up-to-save-his-business kind of way. He joined two years  before Adolf Hitler came to power and remained as one while he produced uniforms for the Waffen SS.

Now, I don’t believe that children should be made to pay for the sins of their parents, and I’m aware that there are other companies still in existence that did worse than Boss’s. (BASF, for example, manufactured the gas used to murder Jews in the Holocaust.) That said, I find it profoundly weird that so much money has gone into promoting the name of a man who thought Hitler was a force for good.

I don’t know about you, but it is going to be hard for me to envision Kate Moss’s face henceforth without seeing a little moustache on her upper lip.

Two monks walk into a bar

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Two monks walk into a Dostoevsky-themed bar and order drinks. “I’ll have a Karamat,” says one.
“I’ll have a Karamat, too,” says the other.
The barman frowns apologetically. “Sorry brothers, Karamat’s off.”

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.

Running out of ideas

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Running is, frankly, a bit of a bore. It takes resolve to get started, it’s tedious while it’s happening, and you have to have a shower afterwards. Why do we do it? The traditional response is that it gives a sense of well-being, but that’s not quite the full story. It also gives a sense of superiority.

That’s why runners are so odious. I mean, I get it. I’ve done it. I have felt good about myself, self-satisfied, superior to my usually lazy self and, by extension, anyone who has not been puffing and panting while I have. But if that is the sensation I’m trying to replicate, there must be ways of achieving it without all the faff.

Rather than induce a sense of superiority through exercise, you could develop an innate sense of superiority by becoming good at something and convincing yourself it’s important. It doesn’t really matter what that thing is. The person I heard scat-singing on Woman’s Hour this morning sounded terribly smug even though her talent was merely warbling “do-do-do-dun-bap-bap-bap-showaddy-waddy” to modern jazz. It could be writing a blog about your dislike of jazz singers.

Or, I suppose, it could be something that adds to the sum of human happiness. That’s something best dealt with off-blog, I think.

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.

Unending progress

Friday, December 10, 2010

Progress bars should show progress. They should fill up in proportion to the task being done. If they just reset to zero when they reach the end and start again then they are misleading and pointless. You may as well have an animation of an Ancient Greek king pushing a boulder up a hill. Bad Vodafone. Bad.


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?