i whirl

Ten years ago, as a mere pup in media studies tutorials, the perceived wisdom passed down through my scrawled handwriting was “Newspaper industry in bit of a bind, internet threat not serious enough to change things around”.

This was the year 2000, within touching distance of Diana’s death but prior to 11th September 2001, when the Internet’s news coverage grew in depth and stature, a development which has continued largely to the detriment of the printed word. At the turn of the century, Internet news coverage was rudimentary, basically computer versions of the printed editions without the foresight (or frankly the bandwidth) to allow readers to comment and feedback. Without blogging, Facebook or Twitter, the news agenda was considered safe from virtual attack, with the world wide web considered largely benign, as much a companion as the radio.

Following the conclusion of my studying years, the relationship between newspapers and the on-line world has drastically altered. All but one broadsheet has changed shape, Rupert Murdock now locates his newspapers’ on-line content behind paywalls, while the Evening Standard is now a freesheet. Amongst the shapeshifting broadsheets in the UK is The Independent, famously regarded by Tony Blair as a ‘viewspaper’ for its sidestep away from mainstream current affairs in favour of one-story front pages and increased commentary. Certainly distinctive – the front page is meant to resemble a computer desktop – the Indie would divide more opinion were it enjoying comfortable readership figures. It ain’t. Sales have been plummeting for years. Lord only knows what the former Prime Minister makes of what the Indie has done now…

Today saw the launch of i – should that be “i”? Or i? I notice housestyles across the web cannot agree – the new 20p-daily for busy people who need to be tempted back into ‘quality’ journalism. For the same coverprice as a redtop, i is a similar digest model as those compendium Guardians or weekly Telegraphs available to ex-pats on the Costas. Except the latter probably would not splash “Is Bert Gay?” on the front page of the launch issue….

On the whole, i seems to have been well received on its first day. I gave up with the Independent many moons ago, finding its tone to have become increasingly preachy and most of the commentators indistinct. i features a piece on Obama by Johann Hari, who has reverted to the intelligent young thing who impressed before turning into the very worst kind of rent-a-quote reactionary. The new take on TV listings – ranking suggestions by genre – uses the lack of space very well, and I suspect many a student household will welcome bookmark recipes for reasonable cost. Sport coverage, for a weekday, seems reasonable although the test will come on Monday. Will the PoliticsHome style ‘matrix’ manage with a full weekend of football to review? Should the decision be made to provide only pencil sketch articles on the big games to show the distinctive move away from traditional newspaper ‘norms’, I would be impressed all the more….though would obviously have to find my fix of sporting headlines elsewhere.

i has already made its mark on the timeline of newspaper history. Although newspapers still make and break the news agenda – when was the last time you watched a ‘review of the morning blogs’ on breakfast television? – sites such as Guido Fawkes, Huffington Post and The Daily Beast have proven tails can threaten to wag their respective dogs. i therefore has to be considered a remarkable gamble, launching a print newspaper in a climate seemingly set against the market even existing in 2020. There are too many safe and familiar choices – oh look, Su Doku hasn’t died – and yet its approach and agenda appear interesting and relevant. The proof, of course, is within all those exceptions which prove rules. “Commutersheets” like Metro are free; how i copes amongst the platform market in 12 months time will be the guide to how long there is left amongst the business model as a whole.

Tomorrow is the biggest test of the tiny life of i; how many curious readers from today will part with their coffee machine money tomorrow? It seems to have Twitter largely on its side, the reviews have been pretty positive, and even my office kinda liked it….So here’s to i lasting at least until at least the new year, ten years on from the event which altered media completely, one tiny British newspaper possibly changing the industry in its own little way…

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V for Vendetta, W for William Hague, X for…

In case you have been living proper lives outside teh interweb, and/or watching Glee or reading “A Journey”, you may have noticed that the United Kingdom’s outpost of the world wide web has done asplode with blogging controversy.

A summary. Guido Fawkes – libertarian blogger who did for Draper and McBride – posted an entry asking if the taxpayer should stump up the cost for William Hague to employ another advisor, implying that the reasons behind the employment may have something in common with Lord Mandleson and his own staff. (Fans of Carry On films may want to run through the implied suggestion with anyone who isn’t).

Fast forward to today, and William Hague’s advisor has resigned. In a statement from the Foreign Secretary, all suggestions that he is homosexual are thrown to the winds, and genuinely shocking admissions about his wife Ffion suffering numerous miscarriages are made in full detail. From some dark part of the internet came suggestions that the marriage was a sham; even Guido didn’t wander into this particular domain (and quite right too).

Twitter has gone into meltdown, although the twitteratti always do. Influential conservative blogger Iain Dale has written a thoughtful piece on how he feels being a blogger during this rather dark moment for the British political blogosphere.

Through Twitter I stood somewhere in the middle on all this. Guido is one of the best of the current bloggers, treading where the mainstream media often dare not venture. He has made errors – the Newsnight mess for one – and this is perhaps an issue with a hint of a shark being prepared for jumping. This is not some “typical Tory sleaze”, as I have seen some suggest on Twitter, as though Guido is part of a mainstream conservative conspiracy. Much more innuendo than appeared in the original piece can be found in messageboards and chatrooms far removed from Order-Order. Typically, a bogeyman has been found for the wider net’s failings.

Hague’s statement is brave and emotional. There is no justification for the intensity or insensitive nature of the worst attacks on him and his wife. The political bloggers who see themselves as salacious or daring should realise that being headline news can be an unsettling and upsetting experience. It is not possible to hide from the glare of on-line onslaughts against you, with message boards and newspaper articles often never removed from a site’s archive history. The personal smears on Hague had no relation to the original piece, and should rightly be condemned.

Iain Dale is right to ask the bloggers in this country to relax somewhat, to regroup. Paul Staines – the real name behind Guido – is to make a comment tomorrow.

Fawkes’ blog is still important and integral to the British political discourse. There are only a small number of blogs which are absolute must reads on-line, for even in the virtual world there are market leaders and big names. This incident should remind everyone nonetheless that there are real life consequences to on-line behaviour. Nobody on-line should consider themselves the absolute truth on any subject.

Lies spread across status updates far faster than the truth has time to log on to its Twitter feed, to update Churchill. Blogging and bloggers, in this country at least, may need to still grow and develop before it realises the full implications of that truism.

away for christmas

With Internet access limited over the Christmas period, this blog is more of a signpost in the middle of a snowy road. Or slushy street corner, whichever.

Have a very Happy Christmas one and all of my readers 🙂

Music

So, what do I think you should be listening to then? Well, Hey Zeus for one. Go seek, they made the Deaf Institute go all wobbly and melty inside. Like one of those Lintl chocolates, just made from indie rather than Swiss sweat.

Sparrow and The Workshop are so darn lovely I expect they donate puppies to local charities before each gig. Or, I dunno, have sex. A lot.

And Fuck Buttons. I mean, honestly, come on.

Twitter

I know, I know, it’s Twitter, and by next Summer it’ll all be over. Unless thousands of England fans want to live-tweet the World Cup? No? Just me?

I recommend you follow LOADS of people. Go seek some. BinaryDad too. He makes coffee splurt from my nose at work. Senor Bongo is another one, oh yes. And from Preston[e] There’s at least three.

Blogs

Again, far too many to list here. But Tory Bear, Devil’s Kitchen and LibDemVoice are three to start with.

Index Eye

By using Google Analytics and StatCounter I am able to spot who is reading what, when, and from where they are staring through a screen at my Missives. Oo-er and indeed missus.

The following six (and a bit) entries are not necessarily the most popular, rather they have maintained a loyal little readership long after the publication date. Can blog entries be “published”? Of course they can, that orange button says “PUBLISH POST”. Right, good, that’s sorted.

So, here are the “Top 6-ish blog entries which have maintained popularity over a certain amount of time, listed to give readers a chance to peruse entries they may have missed. Type thing.”

1. Book Clubbed. In which I go through how many writing pads have been filled with endless attempts at writing novels and stories, only to end somewhere mid-sentence through a middle chapter in a mixture of resignation and slight disappointment.

2. Derren Brown – parts one and two. When the “wisdom of the crowds” met the “scepticism of the Doktorb”. Guess who won…

3. Backstory – Jumper No idea why this is still picking up the readers, (it seems to be very popular every now and then with American IP addresses). What happens when a younger Dok goes into a clothes shop. And fails to do anything right.

4. Scotland Memories of Mallaig, the Small Isles, and such like. Badly typed Gaelic too, I wouldn’t wonder.

5. Nick Griffin – parts one and two No surprises here, I suppose. The one surprising thing about my articles making the case for the BNP leader to appear on Question Time is how many people got here searching for “X Factor” and “Simon Cowell is a [naughty word]”.

6. Sleeping with John Peel Musical musings and such like memories. I can only assume it’s the provocative title, you know….

away

I am on holiday until mid-way through August, so this blog will not be updated for a while. Indeed my crocked laptop being well broken (as the youth say) means updates are going to be sporadic to say the least for some time yet.

Anyway, while I won’t be here to check on the blog and all its readers (from Michigan to Sri Lanka, from Motherwell to Kuwait, I thank you all for visiting at least once), can I please direct you to some places you may like to wander to in the meantime:

Koopa does very good things with bleeps and beats

This man thought he told you to stay in the car

Dizzy is a geek. And politico. It’s a good mix

David Cameron is not the only one using the word “twat” – I used to chuckle muchly to this blog, if it’s still updated you’ll enjoy it too….

notepad

Right – LibDemmery in a general sense, paying the bank something, anything, getting the High Voltage profiles written, packing for next month’s holiday, getting some food in the house, working out how much monies I have for the next week, reminding myself never to drink “Tennis Elbow” again, work out why someone from the Isle of Man visited this blog recently, remembering where and when I’m supposed to be covering the Tringe, working out when I can get the gas meter changed, working out when I can try BT again for the internets, sorting out a bit of a piss-up next week, sorting out when I can get to Frickley for the first away match of the season as well as Bury for the first FCUM meeting of the season…

I /think/ that’s everything…

manflu

Goosnargh, night. Just after coming home from the beach (sand bank, waves crashing, saving an animal from drowning), “our lot” in a holiday camp type home, listening to music. I spray cola over a far-wall, and can see in intense close-up tiny fragments of paint coming off as I clean…These aren’t just dreams, these are illness dreams….

Actually, my illness turns out to be benign. My throat has the sensation of tasting as I would imagine tree-bark covered in brown sugar would taste, and I sniffle and snort a bit, but whatever knocked me down yesterday has essentially lifted. There was a short while of feeling the same chill down my chest as is often seen in chewing gum adverts, although this was temporary also.

However, whatever it was (okay, so maybe a BIT of manflu, I concede), has lifted without the use of medicine, so I can now say without fear of contradiction that minor colds can be cured by drinking water, Ribena, Yazoo Milkshakes, and cups of tea, whilst the only food you need is Builder’s Breakfast crisps. NHSDirect will no doubt send you down the Tamiflu route but that’s all a vested interest con. Trust me, I’m proof; milkshake and crisps, it’s the future…

always something

On the train to Burscough, to catch the friendly against Accy Stanley (it’s a 1-1 draw, they scoring with some assistance from our back-four having a collective brain freeze. We pull it level half way through the second half, with the kind of curved freekick-with-rebound-and-triple-Salko movement which suggests all is pretty much as was since I last took the visit to Victoria Park.)

(Oh, no, wait, there’s two un-covered stands suddenly constructed, that’s new.)

A bloke at the Baron’s bar takes a look at Sky Sports News’ coverage of Rhyl playing Belgrade in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League. “How come they’re playing Belgrade and we’re stuck with Accrington Stanley?”. Good question, well phrased, to which one answer would be “Because they’re Welsh” but that sounds insulting and disingenuous so….

Onwards to crazy dreams. The new flat has caused some elements within my deeper moments of sleep to be ever more creative than usual. Miniature trains, song-and-dance numbers, narrative structures far stronger than usual, colour when they’re usual monochrome or an unusual gold-and-black…I assume when all is settled in the real world the same will happen to that which flows through the brain at sleep, but as there always seems to be something going on this could take some time. There’s not always important things, but enough to be going on with. Worries but not of anything important, niggles perhaps. Getting by, making do, terribly and awfully English things.

I should do more with the overheard conversations I pick up when travelling to work on Class 142s juddering along the East Lancashire Line. One bloke having a whinge about swine flu (he was considering with his mate how much of an actual government-created conspiracy it all was). A few days ago I overheard a bloke propping up the bar discussing a recent claim made to him about racist views. “F’cours I’m racist, course I am,” he explained to whoever was listening, “And this bloke says to me, he says, ‘You’re ignorant, you are’, and I says to him, I says, “You’re blind and braindead’.” I’ve been beaten to “Overheard in New York” but there’s always a more local version…

Saying that, I’ve got reviews, LibDemmery, a new reviewing project, interviews, “settling in”, three weeks of work on a limited budget…..Always something. I’d complain if I were bored, I bet….

window

With trepidation I reach for the cash point, dig hands into train seats, curse the lack of ready-made sandwiches in my fridge. With some regret and reluctance I accept money must be spent to make money, but the pain…And inconvenience. The Halifax bank chase me from one side, angry letters from other institutions await me on the carpet: Hell, even the Liberal Democrat membership department are on my back.

Irresponsibility on my behalf? To a degree, hence the calls from the cheery-yet-menacing Halifax woman earlier. Storm clouds bundled together in the sky for greater effect. It’s why “window” has been chosen for the title of this blog, it may be a high-school level metaphor but it’s nevertheless effective; windows imply escape as much as entrapment. Only recently, with the Lakanal Flats tragedy, do we see how open windows can be held partly responsible for bad as much as they would normally suggest all that is good. With so many financial pressures, not all of which are of my own doing, my wish is for an open window which leads to greater and higher places. Not the strain of a hill, more the implied escape of a plateau at the very least. Family pride, mostly paternal, is as much to blame as the increased cost of living at a time when the economy continues to crumble around me.

It would be so easy to pretend, with pride in one piece, that I do not have nay worries at all. To talk about Michael Jackson or swine flu or Peter Andre, but to do so would be dishonest to myself and the readers who remain so loyal to this little place in the cyberworld. My worry is genuine and desire to resolve all ills strong, but the reality is far beyond the world of assured self-belief. I enjoy sitting here, nursing a pint, with the warming late-evening sun against one side of my face; it would be far more enjoyable if a curtain could be drawn, here and everywhere else.

hello and goodbye

Twelve boxes already packed. Piles of letters – financial institutions, many unopened, copies of Liberal Democrat News I’ll get round to shredding at some point…A charity-shop set of books ordered by shape and size rather than popularity. Clothes to wear over the next two weeks, clothes to consider donating, or throwing, or wearing for the first time in weeks. Moving house is one of the stresses of life for which evolution did not prepare us – like fixing plugs. Or eating instant noodles. Or caravaning.

Internet access will be sporadic over the next few weeks, so this is an update as much adieu. Or “see thee”, if you prefer. Recommended to buy a “dongle” by somebody over the past week, my Google search brought up assorted images which cannot be unseen.

There continues work to be done. And packing, so much packing. This blog will be maintained as best and far as possible, for the people who visit here (who, incidentally, I want to thank for returning, from Idaho to the Philippines via Uddingston, you continue to make this blog all the better)

Somewhere in the back of my mind clutters and collects dates, financial affairs, and the logistics of moving. Total confusion, in other words, scattered around in a soup of many flavours. I’ll attempt to write it all down at some point….