Monday, December 29, 2008

Tagged Too: The One Blog ...

Thanks Lloyd and Richard for something to do at work today alongside checking the number of web complaints over Christmas (not many actually considering the alternative Christmas message), the number of videos uploaded to the Youtube Big Brother auditions channel (quite a few considering no tv promotion yet) and tidying my inbox (both real and virtual).

So after a quick review of my feeds, I think the one blog I read that you've never heard of is probably Media Funhouse which sounds a lot less esoteric than it is. In its own words it's "The blog for the cult Manhattan cable-access TV show that offers viewers the best in "everything from high art to low trash... and back again!" Find links to rare footage, original reviews, and reflections on pop culture and arthouse cinema."

I have Ed Grant to thank for introducing me to the likes of this homoerotic punk ditty as well what Ken Russell's currently up to on Broadway but the post I most frequently find myself coming back to is his pointer to the scariest Jerry Lewis tribute ever - an outstanding find for a great archivist.

Um ... Adam? Got any special blog treats to share with us?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Big Brother Applications Open on Youtube

Check out the latest from our female applicants. Tempted to apply yourself? I seriously think we need a geek in the house... Sadly, Channel 4 employees can't apply.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's a wonderful town

Just back from a great holiday in New York City with my mum and husband. Rob was on a course during which he got to meet the mayor, some disgruntled parents of a school about to be shut down in Harlem and lots of thrusting chief executive types, but Jackie and I were there strictly as tourists with a classic agenda – all the major buildings, landmarks and shopping we could pack into four days.

Here are my best bits:

Feeling full of hope on top of the Empire State Building the morning after the Obama win
On our first morning in New York and Obama’s first morning as President Elect, Mother and I headed out early to the Empire State Building. Not only was it amazing to get such a great view and literal perspective on where we were and what we might be able to see that week, it was also extra special feeling the city so full of hope and positivity.

OK and, to be honest, watching Sleepless in Seattle a million times over a million Christmasses together added to the excitement for the pair of us. Into the bargain, as we were so early and the town so empty (post marathon, post election, pre Christmas I guess), there was no queue at all. I did tire a little of my mum saying “I don’t remember Tom Hanks doing all this” as we snaked our way through the maze of empty queuing systems.

Feeling full of late night sandwiches with Robert in Sarges after seeing Gypsy on Broadway.
It was Friday night, we’d been out to see the musical Gypsy with the incredible Patti LuPone taking the lead, Rose; great music and story as ever – plus incredible orchestra and amazing acting from all the actors. And Robert was hungry.

Leaving Jackie in her room to a bag of Lays and a handful of Tanqueray miniatures (courtesy of very sweet BA steward, Shahid who discovered our trip was a birthday/Christmas treat), we changed into jeans and "sneakers" and headed out for eats from the city that never sleeps.

Sure enough within a matter of minutes we came across a great 24-hour Jewish deli/diner Sarges that served the most amazing sandwiches (the one pictured actually from breakfast there the next day) and fries and had the most charming staff I’ve ever come across in a restaurant at 12.45 am.

Being reminded of the futility of believing you can control anything on a rainy ferry back from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
This photo is part of a triptych. In the first, Jackie closed her eyes accidentally, in the second, Robert closed his eyes accidentally.

At this point I expressed my frustration with the pair of them in no uncertain terms. For the last time, I extended my arm, instructing them to concentrate, look in the camera and smile relaxedly like THEY WERE HAVING A GOOD TIME (italic caps = shouting through gritted teeth). You can see the resulting picture below.

My husband’s insistence on calmly and deliberately shutting his eyes expressly to frustrate me made me laugh with more tearful abandon than anything has done in a long time.

Enough personal soppy nonsense - back to work - and unfortunately not a time necessarily for the "best bits" final compilation.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Men: How to Avoid "Ram Dressed as Lamb" Syndrome

Despite the overwhelming response (thanks Jo) in favour of my menstrual whinge on the unfairness of fashion restrictions imposed on women of a certain age (=mine [36] and over) I've decided to take a different tack.

Instead I'm evening the score by providing a few helpful hints to the ageing fellas so they too can avoid age-inappropriate fashion faux pas or what I like to call "ram dressed as lamb" syndrome.

1. Hair
If your hair is longer than Dame Judi Dench's ask yourself the following questions:
a) Am I hiding a bald patch? Cos the answer is likely that you're not - you're highlighting it - and a short back and sides would stop everyone else's internal debate ("doesn't he realise we realise?")
b) Have I had this hairstyle for longer than a year? If yes, you may be hanging on to a fashion statement that doesn't bear repeating.
c) Am I a celebrity? If yes, continue at that length for as long as work offers continue to pile in. When your sales curve starts to flatten, however, get Denched.

2. Sportswear
That is, clothes and shoes designed for a specific sport - not necessarily designed by a sports shoe manufacturer - should only be worn when participating in the appropriate sport. Think board shorts. Think cycling shorts. Think again. I would also like to add that no man over the age of twenty should ever wear any shoe that resembles a hoof.

3. Band t-shirts
At a gig, under a shirt, acceptable. In bed on a cold night, gardening - even out the front - all fine. In the office, however, you may as well announce that you compulsively masturbate in the disabled toilets, you look so much like a teenager with an ageing disease. Give these guys a couple of years ...

Of course, rules are made to be broken - consider them merely a guide to when you may be jumping the shark, style-wise. In fact, this train of thought started at my own wilful wearing of footless tights, application of liquid eyeliner and insistence on keeping my hair long, when all of these things have been deemed by magazines and fashion pundits in recent months to be the exclusive domain of the younger, fitter bird.

But only when it's part of your act or you're extremely comfortable with your alternative life choices should you wilfully cast them asunder. For example, Russell Brand the comedian looks like a love god who smells of fine white musk (albeit with a line in auditory slip ups). Russell Brand the accountant looks like he reeks of rollies and his favourite author is Terry Pratchett. Nothing wrong with a bit of Golden Virginia and Discworld, but I'm guessing it may not be the look most would go for.

Instead of "What Would Jesus do?" (remember he was only 33 when he died so he escapes rule number 1.), think "Would Jimmy Saville, Peter Stringfellow, or Steve Tyler possibly wear or look like this, even on a day off?" If you so much as waiver in your answer, postpone the meeting, tell your date you'll be late and start again.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trying out Embedding a Goodreads Book Review

H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life by Michel Houellebecq

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you love Michel Houellebecq you'll find this fascinating. Howard Phillips Lovecraft is an underrated tale teller and misanthrope with an amazing imagination, the influence of which can be felt in Houellebecq's works especially the last, The Possibility of an Island. And even tho, at times, Houellebecq gets as close to a hagiography as one can with a sexless racist, his explanation of Lovecraft's life and works is a captivating read due in no small part to the quality of Houellebecq's writing.

Lovecraft's "great works" included in this volume might leave you a little colder, however. I found The Call of Cthulhu verging on the unbearable and had to gallop through it like I was taking some nasty medicine, but took enormous guilty pleasure from the second, The Whisperer in Darkness, from which the influence of Lovecraft's stories on modern culture are evident.

The foreword by Stephen King is rather good as well.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cure Sought for Chronic Dartitis

As you may have gathered, I've picked up a nasty case of blogger's dartitis.

Yes, I've been writing, but with spasms of focus, like the automatic scrawl of a medium channelling a peripatetic Cleopatra who keeps drifting off to chat to Einstein and John the Baptist just when things are getting interesting. As a result, the following posts have been started but not quite finished:

1. The Joy of Serendipity - how meandering paths of content discovery led me to share a scar story and appreciate a racist writer of weird fiction

2. Opine on the Ovine - thoughts on decreed mutton moments from long hair to footless tights (just noticed what could be the first case I've ever noticed of misogyny in enhanced search results - why the images?)

3. Can I Have a Rewind? - how and why it's important to remember what you're all about, inspired by the inadvertent wisdom of my mother "You really must take time to rewind at the weekends"

4. How I feel about the budget cuts and redundancies at Channel 4

Give an old lady a hand - if you've any preferences*, do leave a comment or drop me a line and I'll do my best to knuckle down and deliver. Else I'll just wait here 'til I'm filled with the spirit of Pocahontas or similar.

*Nope, not a chance on number 4; do you think I'm insane?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Larkin on the Future of Broadcasting

Post popping my Edinburgh TV festival cherry last weekend, I was left under an oppressive cloud of thoughts about convergence, fragmentation, HD and series stacking (amongst other things). I was surprised and relieved, therefore, to have a slightly depressing Larkin poem come to mind mid week to offer some clarity and solace to my web/tv tension headache.

For those of you who don't remember your O-level English Lit. or equivalent, the following are a few lines from Dockery and Son where Larkin decries his ex-schoolmate (Dockery)'s perceived insistence on having kids (the son of the title),

"Convinced he was he should be added to!
Why did he think adding
meant increase? To me it was dilution."

After spending a weekend with a bunch of telly folks, I'd say there are slightly more Larkins than Dockerys in tv still pondering a similar question; are new platforms and technologies adding to tv or are they just diluting attention spans, budgets and audiences?

The idealistic and more vocal Dockerys will cry that of course new ways of receiving programmes mean we can reach new audiences in new ways, "look at the iplayer!" their rallying cry. And Peter Fincham's MacTaggart lecture was enormously comforting - pointing out the enduring popularity of Saturday night shows like X Factor, and containing views about TV's vitality I largely concur with (as well as one of my gags),

"The experience of new mediums is that they don’t usually displace the existing ones. Everybody has to move up a bit, but there’s more room on the bench than you thought. Cinema didn’t kill theatre, television didn’t do for cinema, video didn’t even kill the radio stars."

Back to Larkin on such potent positivity, however,

" ...Where do these
Innate assumptions come from? Not from what
We think truest, or most want to do:
Those warp tight-shut, like doors."

Well no one exposed themselves as an out and out Larkin (ok, I did hear one tv poppet drunkenly shouting "The Long Tail is shit!" at about 2 am on Sunday morning). Most accept that the future is here - content is already on demand, attention is already fragmented - so we may as well make a fist of it.

My own inner Larkin came out, however, during a session that I should have been inspired by, The Viral Grand Prix. Peter Bazalgette - a TV Dockery if ever there was one given his involvement in - ended up giving an example of how a production company might be able to make literally pennies (his word) from plundering their archives for clips of frogs shagging (seriously, also his example). It was at that point the real problem that should have been tackled during the conference was highlighted for me (although I must say the panel's po-faced nodding in agreement about the money to be made from copulating amphibians was an unexpected highlight).

Pennies? How do we make programmes like The Qur'an with pennies? A clip of frogs shagging? Is that what Life in Cold Blood is reduced to on the world wide web? Bazalgette was making a sound point about small amounts of money from small amounts of content adding up to make something that could help generate cash, but it felt more like a storecard points system than a serious revenue stream.

When later in the same session the Viral Grand Prix winner was also revealed to have been voted by a landslide of clicks and views to be a man repeatedly asking to be - and getting - kicked in the nuts, you do start to question rather than want to embrace the wisdom of crowds, don't you?

Enabling and harnessing the potential creativity of the world to fuel, fund, create and share innovative audio-visual content in a rapidly changing media landscape is the challenge. The fear remains, however, that whilst the old order crumbles, the new order is building a solution based on fucking frogs and bollock baiting.

Clay Shirky went some way to address these fears during his Futureview address (great explanation from Matt on the 4iP blog), explaining that content creation can be faster, cheaper, more authentic and differently filtered by using principles inherent to the web. I'm with him all the way, but I still think that this doesn't necessarily cover making high-quality compelling audio-visual content for a long while yet - and what programme makers are struggling with is shrinking budgets and the demands of commercial returns right now.

I do believe the question of how we continue to make the serious and sometimes seriously expensive documentaries, experimental films and high-end dramas remains. Or how we fund taking risks on new comedy talent in order to find the next Peter Kay or Ricky Gervais. Large scale popular channels are less able to commission them, and the Internet isn't yet providing them - or will require similar levels of risk and investment to find them. This is why Channel 4's banging on about funding - however hard we're trying in all these new platforms the sums just aren't adding up.

And that's what I hoped would be more of a focus. Are there ways that we can cut costs in production without crippling indies? How are production companies and talent using web principles to fuel their creativity? What is TV's live event revenue stream? How do audiences compare on Bebo for Kate Modern to BBC 3 or E4? How does the advertising revenue compare? What do we think about the dreaded product placement? Are we looking for a short-term fix to a long-term solution that is already playing out? Can you crowd-source a documentary or at the very least its funding? And are there any examples of authentic, high quality content created cost effectively by individuals that do not contain the words "geek" "star wars" or "linux"?

And who on earth is going to answer all these questions? Not a dead, anti-semitic poet, that's for sure.

Later note 01/09: Last night's post was sponsored by nicotine withdrawal. Also cheered up today realising that I think it might be me trying to answer these questions - and it's fun trying (any ideas? - you know where to find me).

Friday, August 29, 2008

Exciting Times

Ok, I can't vote for the guy but c'mon ...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

4mations has lift off

Those crazy cats at Aardman and Lupus films have pulled it off!, the new home of all kinds of animation talent online (backed by Channel 4) is live and there's already an entertaining and ecletic bunch of films and games on there to enjoy. It's still in beta, so be gentle with them - but looking pretty fine already.

What does it say about me that the first three categories of films I looked for were Comedy, Adult then Sick and Twisted? Probably that I'm terrribly average.

The logophile in me likes this one best so far.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Learning to Love You More: For Real

Originally uploaded by wolves!!.
I have loads more to write on this but realised that there are only a few days left for anyone able to go to see Learning to Love You More so thought I should post my big shout out now.

If you are anywhere near Middlesbrough, or even if you're not - I can tell you train times from London if you can spare an afternoon and evening - then go and see this exhibition. It's a beautifully curated exhibition inspired and fed by the Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July website at the link above.

How I came across Learning to Love You More is a whole 'nother post in itself, but take a look at the assignments (first one to find my entry wins a prize) and if looking at photographs of strangers holding hands or reading people's life stories or looking at and reading about people's significant outfits moves you at all, you wait til you see and hear and watch and feel them in the flesh. Seeing the actual drawings people have made, sitting and watching the videos or staring up at a hand-crafted banner whilst everyone else around you also enjoys these funny, moving contributions was such a great feeling, such a feeling of community and it seemed to me that Middlesbrough was a great place to do it.

Many thanks to curator Nicky Peacock, the local contributions she's been harvesting make the exhibition so special and even more intimate and moving. Her opening night touch of live bands covering Don't Dream It's Over [assignment #24] was genius. Go - go now! Worry about it later.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

No book + Delayed tube journey = idle inspiration

Stressed and without reading material but determined to make the most of a delayed tube journey, on Wednesday evening I found some pleasure in discovering the following:

1) A book with an online trailer
The Last Exile (trashy looking book) tube carriage ad implores the reader to watch the trailer and buy the book at Very occasionally I've seen books advertised on TV but since when did books get online trailers? Am sorry to say it's completely impossible to find when you go to the Borders site, however - if you're throwing yourself into multi-platform madness you better get some decent information architecture behind you.

2) A man with odd shoes on the platform at Camden
Odd as in mismatched, but not wholly; same style but one black, one white. I was impressed by his simple fashion grab but have decided it's not a look for me despite it necessitating extra shoe purchase, something I'm always on the look out to legitimate. He was Spanish - anyone know if it's a Spanish thing?

3) The first person (matching shoes) I've ever seen using a tube Help point.
He just asked when the next Edgware train was and why there was a delay, which prompted a platform announcement with explanation. I always thought those big round things were reserved for blood-spattered crime victims so was starting to doubt his sanity when I saw him approaching it without any obvious source of distress. Then I noticed the blue "information" button under the green "emergency" button. Good on you nasal-voiced, check-shirt man, you've taught me something new.

I can't help wondering whether I'm late to the party with all these observations, however, my bookworminess rendering me a public transport Rip van Winkle, awake to my surroundings for the first time in years.

Ultimately I was most inspired by the bold use of the help point on the platform and then decided that I would like it to be a source of any information I might want when on that platform - like an AQA type of thing you could ask "Where's the best kebab shop nearby?" or "When's the next lunar eclipse?" etc. - that definitely would have made my delay even more bearable.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Note to self: say my name, say my name (both of them)

The first time it happened I was a young, drunk twentysomething swimming out of her depth with the soaks in the Colony.

"And you are ...?", the older, drunker, posher woman drawled, sprawled across the lap of someone related to the famous and talented.

"Louise." I answered.

"Louise who?" she hooted back, irritated.

"Brown" I mumbled, befuddled not just by the large gins I'd been necking for, ooh, about six hours that evening. Did she want to write a letter to me? Fill in a form? Write a cheque?

She shook her head with a disconnected smile and went on with her conversation without me, leaving me to stew in what I assumed was my own jus de social faux pas.

Was it a class thing, I wondered, would she think she might know my family, "Ah, the Dagenham Browns, aren't you related to Madge from the Tote?" Not likely.

Years later I read an article by someone like Alison Pearson where she opined on the habit of young women who only ever introduced themselves as "Samantha" or "Tara" wilfully omitting their last names.

Alison (can't have been Julie, surely?) decried this as the habit of the vain and the vacuous, reducing themselves to a page 3 cartoon caption "Keeley likes Jeffrey Archer novels and chipmunks, and doesn't agree with ecomonic monetary union". She may even have quoted a fine example of this type, the brilliant spokesmodel character SanDeE* played by Sarah Jessica Parker in L.A. Story.

I'd finally got it. The woman in the Colony (can't remember her name - first or last) thought I was being dumb and cute whereas I knew that there was absolutely no chance she would have heard of me and didn't even consider that it might be useful in future for her to know I was a Brown.

To this day I have friends (admittedly not all that close) of whose surnames I have no idea, any confusion with the similarly monikered clarified by their distinguishing features. For example, two of my mum's golfing chums will always be known to me as Big Doreen and Little Doreen and a beautiful, sweet friend of a friend known affectionately as Suzy Boobs.

But I was caught out again on Thursday night when a fellow media industry worker (who shall rename nameless, I bear no ill will) said,

"I didn't catch your name"

And I answered simply "Louise".

This time he was left to physically implore me with an upturned face and outstretched palm to finish the job.

"Oh - Brown, Louise Brown."

Again a shake of the head and a move swiftly on - transporting me right back to that smoky room of my youth.

So really all this post, nestled alongside my various media-related mental meanderings, is, is an elaborate note to self: you are 35 - not 5 - and in social situations it is useful to hear your full name for any number of reasons - professional and personal.

I suppose the likes of Facebook have changed this quite a lot for folks younger than I - you end up knowing people's surnames as well as their inside leg measurement with the click of a mouse - and, scuse me while I adjust my chip, I'm sure there is a little bit of socio-economic change in there somewhere; my Great Aunt Madge never had to network for starters.

Most significantly, in a world where we now know so many freaking people in so many shallow ways (206 Facebook friends, 200 personal email contacts, 121 LinkedIn connections etc. - and that's with no massive outreach effort), the need for a full, distinct name becomes all the more useful. I've even considered the Googlability of my future offsprings' names as a determining factor in their nomenclature given that I'm saddled with the top slots taken up by the first test tube baby.

To think people ask me why I haven't changed my last name since I've got married - I have enough trouble recalling the first one I was given, for heaven's sake.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Families, Pacificists, Jingoists and Philatelists Unite

Watched The Culture Show last night on BBC Two and saw a piece on Steve McQueen's latest works.

The big feature was Hunger, his first feature film about the IRA Hunger Strikes of the early 80s (if you haven't read Bobby Sands' diary of that time, I suggest you do, it's very moving). I haven't seen it so far, but trusted reports so far sound good.

But my call to action is to support the work (also featured in the programme) and campaign started in March by McQueen "Queen and Country".

McQueen has created "a cabinet containing a series of facsimile postage sheets, each one dedicated to a deceased soldier". But the work is not complete until the Post Office actually choose to issue the stamps so is accompanied by a petition - both alongside the work and online - in order to try to make this happen. I think this both honours those who have lost their lives and keeps us questioning the motives and ongoing presence of our forces abroad. You can see the work at the Barbican until July 27th.

(Come on, if we can bring a chocolate bar back ... register your support here.)

Later note: More just in from Adam on Hunger.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Revelations in the Search for the Elusive Tellyweb

Last week I spent four days on a residential workshop that brought together tv commissioners, producers and a bunch of content geeks (new media design, editorial and tech folk). The aim was to aid all our understanding of what makes brilliant, impactful multiplatform projects or, in E4 speak, the "tellyweb".

Each day left me exhausted and a little frustrated but always inspired, resulting in lots of late night scribbling of variously deranged thoughts - of which a selection follows.

Day 1: Content geeks are a bunch of bone-banging monkeys
So I’m a couple of glasses of white rioja in, and I confess to the people that commissioned the likes of Green Wing and Cutting Edge how exciting I found the recent introduction of user comments to Big Brother news articles and photos. I could hear the crackle as the glaze set on their eyes. Even my head was nodding a little before I reached the end of my own sentence.

Yes, my pedestrian example of an interactive feature is particular to my role and the challenges within it, but when I'm still getting excited about basic functionality it really highlights how hard it can be to produce sophisticated, large-scale interactive entertainment across platforms.

But you know what, the Roundhay Garden Scene isn't exactly The Sopranos now is it? But it was the first step in the evolution of audio-visual entertainment.

We just have to accept that on an evolutionary scale of online media us content geeks aren't single-celled, but we're still not all that far up the chain; remember Youtube was only formed in 2005. So er ... throw us a bone.

Day 3: To have a hit musical sometimes a fat transvestite has to do unspeakable things
Oh how they frowned as ARGs were explained, how they laughed as we described how and why we use Twitter (renamed “Dribble” by one wag); it really was a struggle to get people to understand the more fringe of our online activities. For example, red-faced and mumbling, I might as well have been a teenager explaining masturbation: “It [Twitter]’s good, not sure if it's good for me... Quite addictive really... Sometimes I have to force myself not to be on it so much.”

Then I received Divine inspiration – yes, that one – the dead, fat fabulous transvestite diva star of stage and screen and John Waters' movies.

It occurred to me that Hairspray is a multi-award winning musical on screen, West End and Broadway as well as a remade hit movie, but that’s not where director John Waters started out. Would Waters have got where he is, entertaining and enlightening millions of people and making millions of dollars, without having once made that [WARNING! this is gross] infamous scene from Pink Flamingos? I for one say no.

It's accepted that every creative medium needs the fringe movements and esoteric works in order to push the boundaries of what can be achieved within their genre – and online is no exception especially in (fast developing) forms. Participation in Virtual worlds or ARGs, even just publishing photos of yourself or your opinions on the web can be hard for people to comprehend, but that doesn't mean they're not worthwhile activities or are always destined for minority audiences.

Day 4: Creativity is polyamorous
Not a defence of any sexual incontinence, more an observation that by the end of the week it was obvious that what mattered most were ideas and creativity and how new technology and platforms afforded more and better opportunities to express those ideas. I truly believe that really creative people can apply their skills on any number of platforms with a bit more knowledge, experience and confidence.

I see evidence of this in projects like filmmaker, artist and author Miranda July and fellow polymath Harrell Fletcher's Learning to Love You More project which is not only a website but also a book, a touring exhibition, and radio broadcasts. Or in the daft works of Adam Buxton who, after pushing the boundaries on TV, has continued to do so online in his Youtube channel, even if that is sometimes with meat products.

In conclusion
It was a great experience and a salutory lesson in how cynics can become advocates with the right information and environment. It was also a great help for the likes of me to understand more about television processes and people. And finally, I learnt that us content geeks may well be a bunch of fat, polyamorous transvestite monkeys - but we're evolving at an amazing rate.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Professional Guilty Pleasures: Big Brother is Back

I sometimes ask myself if I didn't work for Channel 4 would I still be watching Big Brother? And then I just watch it anyway. You can catch up here if you've missed it (UK only).

Undoubtedly some interesting housemates this year including an American albino called Darnell who seems very sweet, a blind cross-dresser, Michael, and a selection of near-miss lookie likies - from Scottish Perez-Hilton-alike Dennis, to Sylvester LeBlanc mash-up Mario (who looks so much like our favourite cartoon Italians he changed his name from Sean). Grace Dent explains them all very amusingly (excited she's writing for the site this year).

No one vaguely posh this year - maybe The Apprentice's Lucinda Ledgerwood was right, in the world of reality TV, the privileged few are a beleaguered minority.

Incidentally, I was just jealously reflecting on how Lucinda's name was so lovely that it was the kind of name that as a teenager I dreamt would make all the difference and land me a posh floppy-haired boyfriend. Then I found out she'd made it up. Hahaha. Cindy Burger. Guess she and Mario have got something in common after all. (She probably would have fared better in the BB house, now I think about it.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

City Slickers Back in the Saddle Again

City Slickers
Originally uploaded by LouBrown.
After Boris got in (maybe all those Facebook friends did mean something after all) I decided the only thing to do was leave this city and seek pastures new.

But after two weeks without email, blackberry, twitter, internet - just a little light texting and a horse called Pugsley - I'm back in London.

Snaps duly uploaded to Flickr and will gladly bore anyone with tales of beat poetry, gambling brides and desert sunsets.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Mayor for New Media: London's Candidates Compared

Thank the lord I've received my polling card so can now vote in tomorrow's mayoral election. And if who to vote for wasn't bleedin' obvious as far as I'm concerned, here's a highly unscientific round-up of the big 3 and their new media credentials.

Brian Paddick
2,189 Supporters on Facebook
Facebook groups are pretty sparse on the ground, although I was diverted by the best mayoral tribute group "Ken's the best mayor but I fancy Brian Paddick so much I might vote for him".
40 friends on MySpace
Active Twitter user for the past few weeks at least (60 updates) - and has replied to questions directed @brianpaddick
A nice selection of videos on Youtube on the official Libdem channel and rather coolly released his campaigning video on Youtube before it was on TV.

Ken Livingstone
2,277 supporters on Facebook
Facebook groups are all very anti-Ken, a little disturbingly so in some cases ("twat" not the mildest of terms to have passed Facebook's profanity filter)
C0uldn't find a MySpace and Ken's not on Twitter either.
A good selection of videos on Youtube and a great section on his site which highlights all the other "proper" blogs writing good stuff about Ken - a good example of amplifying buzz simply by pointing it out as well as utilizing and publishing work that his team are no doubt doing anyway rather than possibly [whisper it] wasting time updating a MySpace page or Twitter.

Boris Johnson
7,773 supporters on Facebook and a much livelier page than the others with his like and dislikes - you know, like a proper Facebook person would have.
48 subscribers, 1,635 views to his campaign's Youtube channel (chaps above are using their party's channel).
@backboris has tweeted nearly as much as @brianpaddick
but is only following 1 person!
His campaign started ages ago on MySpace of all places although the official BackBoris MySpace friends number 101, but the daft spoof Boris page over 900.

In summary - as in life, web:
  • Brian Paddick ticks all the right boxes but just fails to pull it off (if Jonty from Big Brother's your celebrity supporter, one might conclude you're in trouble... Scarlett Johansson he aint - although a little more articulate).

  • Ken may be fundamentally flawed but outstyles his opponents in a couple of key areas

  • Boris amuses and delights but just lacks credibility where it counts

But, at the end of the day, how do you decide the candidate for you? I suppose you could do worse than the BBC channel on Youtube or alternatively ... FIGHT!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Where is the Black Russell Brand? Or for that matter the Asian Martha Lane Fox?

The questions in the title popped into my head after a speech given to staff at Channel 4 this week by Lenny Henry entitled "The Road To Diversity Is Closed … Please Seek Alternate Route".

Stating that ethnicity was his diversity flag to wave, Lenny gave us an encore of a speech he'd already delivered to the Royal Television Society, highlighting the lack of non-white faces both in front of and behind the camera.

We raced through the industry's past embarrassments such as the excruciating Mind Your Language and unintentionally stereotype-enforcing Alf Garnett, before stopping off to celebrate some of the good work both home and abroad in the 80s and 90s such as Desmonds and The Cosby Show.

Arriving at the 21st century, Lenny then asked the crowd to shout out any comedy and entertainment programmes currently airing in the UK starring black or asian actors, comedians or presenters. Most eyes went down into laps, leaving one lone cry of "Little Miss Jocelyn" which apparently may have been cancelled anyway.

And whilst I heard and agreed somewhat with the view that Lenny's speech wasn't saying much not heard before, what was clear was that it needed to be stated again; at some stage the tv industry took its eye off the ball and positive action is now needed to find non-white writers, actors, directors, gaffers etc.

More shocking personally, however, was when I reflected on if Lenny had asked a question about senior figures within the new media industry from different ethnic backgrounds, what names would I come up with? For an industry that prides itself in being open, cutting edge and forward thinking, look around at any industry event and Greg Dyke's infamous phrase does come to mind.

Believe me, I have nothing against smart white men - I married one for starters. But blimey, when I look at the so-called "digerati" of the UK, it looks distinctly pasty and not a little testosterone heavy. In diversity terms, New Media is positively prehistoric (ironic really) and current networks seem to be perpetuating the make up of the current white, male, middle-class cliques.

If we really do have the future of media in our hands, surely we need to have a workforce that reflects our current society at the very least?

At the end of his speech, Lenny asked the audience to take some positive action - which I'll try to do in my day job - and I hope this post may have made you think a little about the diversity of your workforce or team. I also thought I may as well add the following which might help in some small way to introduce some new talent to our industry:

If you or someone you know might be interested in starting a career in UK new media and don't know where to start then do email me (via my profile above) and I'll see if I can put you in touch with someone or supply some useful information.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Twitter: A Great Big Geeky Curb Your Enthusiasm

All human emotion is to be found on Twitter and quite often the heightened kind. Having recently engaged with the geek communication tool of choice, I've been informed and amused by the public highs and lows of some influential figures on the tech scene.

My personal favourites of the last fortnight have been stars of the twitterati Michael Arrington letting it be known what he thinks of Dave Winer (whose ambiguously pronounced surname lends itself to the poetry of the "tweet") and Techcrunch UK's Mike Butcher raging against the middle classes.

All splendid, honest outpourings from the gut, although both left me wondering whether these tweets are an authentic representation of their personalities or an online manifestation of an inner rage, rather as one imagines nervy teens maraud around World of Warcraft as giant, sexy troll slayers (apologies if there are no giant troll slayers sexy or otherwise, WoW is one party I won't be crashing).

No doubt it's the intimacy, impulse and instant gratification of the medium that leads to fewer inhibitions than one might expect from long-established forms of public communication - an extension of a phenomenon seen in lots of online communication tools and services. But I'm not complaining, the mixture of work and play spiced up with some fervour and a little old fashioned curmudgeonry is really entertaining, like a great big geeky Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Guessing that if you've got this far, you may have some interest in new media, be new to Twitter and it's likely you're based in the UK, here are a few good people to start following: Steve Bowbrick cos he's funny; Downing Street (yes, it really is them) cos it feels nicely weird and it'll be interesting to see how they use it; and The Guardian's Jemima Kiss cos she's charming and useful. The two Mikes above are also great twitterboxes or tweetheads or whatever the word is for one who tweets prolifically (thanks to twitter mates for ideas so far, any better ideas @louby please).

But Larry David on Twitter, now there's a thought. Check out the first paragraph of his bio on The Huffington Post, it's his perfect medium, surely?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

In the world of Google, Max Clifford can't hear you scream

Jordan (Katie Price) and I have at least two things in common. Firstly, a penchant for a little too much make-up, secondly, a need to manage our online personae.

With regard to the latter, I fell in love with the idea of the two online manifestations of her corporeal Dorian Gray existence revealed in Saturday's Guardian interview. Drunk, spilling out of nightclubs Jordan's fans have a home at whereas the pink, pony-loving princess among mum's Katie Price's fans can congregate at

I started to wonder whether Katie/Jordan's got it right? Whilst in the early 90s, this would have been heralded as evidence of multiple personality disorder, in the 21st century, this seems more like an online pseudonym or Second-Life avatar writ large.

Personally, I'd embraced using just my real name online a while back despite realising the strengths of pseudonymity but more recently have been wondering whether the work-life seepage I've worried about for ages is further compounded by the blurring of work and home online existences.

Over the past year friends and I have literally blogged about births, deaths and marriages, alongside seering indictments of the British media and idiotic self-referential, self-deprecating twaddle (that last one'll be me then, sorry).

In an age when we will make more (shallow) acquaintances with people online than in our day-to-day lives, and our online traces become vital clues for future employers, partners, employees, children even, maybe we should be treating our online presences more like carefully constructed PR exercises or dating profiles - trimming the equivalent of a few inches and years here and there - and less like brain dumps?

My conclusion to this so far, however, is still to be found with Jordan. I believe the strength of her image and continued dominance in the British media is not just down to her beauty, physical attributes and careful stage management but, as the Guardian article alluded to, an unflinching honesty that others can relate to (although I'm not suggesting that everything is shared unless you want to get a reality show out of it).

Unfortunately for Jordan/Katie, when it comes to online, a Google Image Search for Katie Price reveals a selection of alarming images that make a mockery of a carefully split fan base and that no amount of media manipulation can alter; once you're in the world of Google, Max Clifford can't hear you scream.

(Idle aside: I wonder whether the Katie Price persona was pushed partly to ensure better Google results - less competition what with the country and the trainers. Now that would make her a smart businesswoman.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Putting the Me into Meme: 8 things you might not know about me

After begging to be memed, it's hard to know where to start.

You already know the colour of one of my eyes, for sure, and with a light hoeing you can easily find out my favoured books, music and what I'm up to most days - so what's left?

1. I am the passenger, but not just in an Iggy Pop sense.
The only time I have commandeered a mode of transport apart from my own two feet was when I "raced" against MSFT colleagues in a quad bike; I was told it looked like I was mowing the lawn. I would like to learn how to drive, however, and have been eyeing up those new little electric cars, delivering the milk a step up on my personal mobility scale.

Simon Callow2. My second teenage sexual dream starred Simon Callow.
"Sexual" is mine and Freud's interpretation anyway. He was in leathers riding up my garden path on a 1950s-style motorbike (no sniggering at the back). My first teenage sex dream was pretty dull and involved kissing a classmate by a big oak tree (ditto).

3. Aged 16, I was on teatime schools gameshow Blockbusters (in a pair, no gold runs).
I still use the red calf-leather-bound dictionary signed by Bob Holness but not the cream and turquoise shellsuit bomber jacket with 2 "B"s in hexagons embroidered on the chest. We were robbed, incidentally.

4. I suffer from coldsores especially in times of stress.
When I arrived at university I appeared to be sporting a hitler moustache made of cornflakes. This may have been me during freshers' week.

5. My annual tights spend is too shameful to share.

6. I've told everyone for so long that my first single was Turning Japanese by The Vapors I started to believe it.
It was my big sister Susan that bought it, but I recall some involvement in the decision to buy. I may have been more instrumental in the accompanying purchase of January February by Barbra Dickson, however.

In the process of writing this, I've just remembered my first single was actually Starvation/Tam-Tam Pour l'√Čthiopie, a sort of ska Band Aid on the Zarjazz label. This would be cool were it not accompanied by the knowledge that this was part of a self-imposed penance to assuage my guilt at not buying Do They Know It's Christmas? I also bought the Live Aid video which thankfully put paid to any notions of self flagellation or similar.

7. My first album was Olivia Newton John's Greatest Hits Vol. 2.
I can remember even Mother's incredulous "Are you sure?" as I stood grinning up at her in the queue at W H Smiths, Romford. I wasn't, but still enjoy Xanadu.

8. When I was 17, as "payment" for giving me a lift to the local underage pub du jour, Susan used to make me wear the Blockbusters bomber jacket right inside the pub.
My lips tingle at the memory.

Thanks to Richard for obliging me, now it's over to Adam, Jon, Andy, and Helen ...

Monday, March 17, 2008

4IP: A Shot in the Arm (the good inoculation kind) for British media

Last week two instances proved beyond reasonable doubt that I have spent too much time reading celebrity nonsense:

1. For a split second I believed that leading lutist, tantric sex (find your own link) fan and lead singer of The Police, Sting, had become some sort of moral vigilante. I am an idiot.

2. When trying to come up with a decent analogy for the state of the British TV broadcasting industry, my first port of call was Amy Winehouse. Again.

I'm still an idiot, but there's something there. A dependency on decreasing TV ad revenues may mean that quality and creativity will be departing the ludicrously talented world of British broadcasting whilst all the exciting stuff happens online.

Which is why I was more than pleased to hear about my employer - Channel 4 - 's commitment to new platforms (details in chapter 4) outlined in last Thursday's Next on 4 announcements especially in the shape of the £50m 4IP fund.

It's great to think that this cash will ensure that the UK population has a voice on this global stage, that our talent and ideas are nurtured, that our voices are heard, and that our lives benefit from the kind of mobilisation and amplification that online platforms specialize in.

Most of all I hope it will ensure that Channel 4 continues to appeal to the audiences we work best for, and that our creativity is pushed and increased with this whole raft of new tools to play with.

In the Guardian podcast, Emily Bell said something like "how you feel about this depends entirely on how you feel about Channel 4". My understanding of the findings of our research was that overwhelmingly, people do believe that Channel 4 is a good thing, and that it does have a role to play on platforms other than traditional broadcast TV.

Do read the report, watch the videos (last Q&A clip quite entertaining) , and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Remind me, video didn't actually *kill* the radio star, did it?

The other day a colleague (Richard) and I were trying to figure out which media had been killed by a successive media, or at least died due to related neglect.

I ventured the Mystery Play - but then discovered that the Guilds of York will be staging some in 2010. He got as far as audio cassette tapes - but we agreed that was a technology, not a medium.

What with us working for Channel 4 and everything, sometimes you do feel the fear - can it really be true that TV is dead?

So as I headed to the FT Digital Media and Broadcasting conference at the beginning of this week, I was hoping for some insights as to what fate has in store for TV.

Unfortunately as I turned to my notes to report back my findings, I seem to have scribbled down mostly comments that I disagreed with. For example, the excellent Blake Chandlee of Facebook stated,

"Content is what your family and friends are doing."

The way I see it, my mum isn't doing Jamie at Home any more than I did Atonement at the weekend. Yes, I realise Blake was talking from Facebook's point of view, but remember I'm looking for a diagnosis of a problem before fate deals its cruel blow and this seemed at odds with the content that the likes of Channel 4 bangs out.

And then there was Andreas Mueller-Schubert of Microsoft, again talking only really for Microsoft when he said,

"TV is no longer just a device, it's a new digital service to personalize."

Come off it - TV has been an educator, an entertainer, a piece of furniture, a friend, a pacifier, an anaesthetic even ... but just a device? Never! And now it's a new digital service to personalize is it? Well that makes it sound about as fun as an over-featured microwave. Is that really how people feel about Midsomer Murders?

After a while I did wonder whether the conference should have been renamed as something more like "stuff that digital media and broadcasters might want to think about or have been worrying they should probably at least look up", as even excellent chair Richard Waters, was moved early on to say,

"You thought you were coming to a media conference and you have to listen to a lot of talk about tagging."

That's not to say I spent the entire two days seething at semantics: David Moody of the BBC imparted some invaluable wisdom to any broadcaster based on their experience with the iplayer and the impact of distribution; Ron Galloway was very accessible and entertaining on the semantic web (and may be available for weddings and barmitzvahs his patter is so slick); and it was a shame that Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger on Search was in the conference graveyard slot (the last session on the last day) - speaking of both how search engines and data privacy handling need to be tackled with the memorable line,

"We forget, Google remembers."

I was also really sad to have missed Nova Spivack, of whom I heard great reports.

The absolute highlight for me was Moray MacLennan, Chairman Europe of M&C Saatchi. The quality of his presentation and analysis left me stimulated, ever-so-slightly reassured and, well, with a bit of a crush actually.

I loved, for example, how MacLennan expressed the way that ad agencies should feel about the mix of media that they have to play with as,

"I was drawing in black and white and now I can paint in colour."

MacLennan was a part of the strongest panel of the two days, "Innovating Revenue: The Future of Advertising" which featured Hamish Pringle of the IPA, Melanie Howard of the The Future Foundation and oh yeah, my mate Fergus of Nooked who had invited me along to the conference.

The whole panel embraced all the right digital goodness (widgets, games etc.), whilst accepting that you don't want "engagement" and "a conversation" with every brand (MacLennan stating his toilet roll brand as not one he would be befriending on Facebook) and that there will always be a place for down-time content that's all "done" for you, which was certainly backed up by Future Foundation research that Howard referred to.

And as the title of this post suggests, I don't think video killed the radio star, you know, but I'll concede it did signficantly alter his or her place in the media firmament.

I'm not being curmudgeonly or naive. Just as email led to the demise of snail mail and the marginalisation of the personal letter or card but not the end to personal correspondence, maybe Youtube heralded the start of the end of the tv set - maybe even the tv station or channel as we know them - but not TV in the sense I think we all understand it - well made audio-visual content that we can sit back and enjoy in our living rooms traditionally, but now wherever we might want a screen - bedroom, study, or hand.

What we've got to figure out is what place social networks, widgets, pvrs etc. have in our lives - and therefore the media landscape, but wisely assuming that some of the old ways and means will endure and emerge with new ways to reach audiences.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Billg Brings on the Bunnies

See I'd feel tons better if I worked at Yahoo! knowing that there are people at Microsoft with the (cheese) balls to hire Amy Sedaris. Using her world of bunnies and baking to promote Microsoft Office is delightfully bizarre.

Who knew how cute a typing rabbit could be?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Barack's Campaigning Supporters - can they? I hope so

The USA is still the most influential country on this planet, right? Someone tell me if China's edged ahead. So it's been interesting following the US elections.

Listening to Joe Klein on Newsnight last night I was relieved to hear from someone who should know, that there is little between Clinton and Obama in terms of policy, and it is pretty much about style.

I found the "Yes we can" video campaign video for Obama embedded below exciting and moving (and couldn't help but cast my mind back to Blair and his anthem - not as cool but I was excited at the time), thinking of the energy and inspiration that Obama could bring to the US and therefore the rest of the world.

Looks like Clinton has done really well last night, however, so I'll wait with baited breath. It's an interesting piece of campaigning video, anyway, and apparently not official (although now sanctioned).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Schmaps Maps - close but no banana (updated)

A few weeks ago I received an email in my Flickr inbox. It's a rare occasion, given my photographic skills amount to little more than point, shake a bit, point at the wrong thing, get distracted - and click.

Excitedly I opened my email from Emma J. Williams, who informed me that one of my photos, of a statue in Rome, had been shortlisted for inclusion in an online European city guide map called Schmap, a neat little company busy constructing media-rich guides using Flickr photos and Yahoo! maps.

At first, my worldwide-web-weary cynicism led me to assume this was some sort of scam, and by accepting their terms and conditions I would be surrendering my IP in perpetuity and so forevermore Emma and her gang would be making millions of filthy dollars from shots of my leg looking quite nice in my wedding dress [thanks for the comment, photoboy1970, can't say I'm such a massive fan of your Thai massage shots].

But when a fellow pod-dweller (for those of you uninitiated this means someone whose desk is cojoined with mine to form part of a unit - yes, we are the peas) then mentioned he also had a photo being considered by a city guide competition and had blithely accepted their terms and conditions I decided to forget worrying about the small print, ticked the box and hoped for the best. Now it wasn't just an appeal to my vanity, it was a competition.

Come on, I'm not stupid, I knew this was marketing, but this was damned sophisticated, hands-on marketing and an excellent way to source some high quality content for free. These were smart guys.

When the third pod-dweller admitted that yes, he too had been entered into a competition for a city guide map, I did start to wonder if there was something more sinister at work, who was this Emma J. Williams anyway?

All was forgiven, however, when Emma then informed me I was on the shortlist. Perfectly timed too, as I'd just forgotten about Schmaps and ceased to worry momentarily whether they were stealing my online identity and photoshopping my husband's face onto passports to be sold to the highest and most terrifying of bidders.

And then it happened. I only bloody won, didn't I? My image of Pasquino (see above), Rome's first talking statue, something I prided myself in spotting and recording, had actually made it into a Schmap!

Feeling a little smug - and let's be frank, not entirely surprised, I clicked the link to the Schmap of Rome sent by the now grateful Emma J. Williams which linked to the map, which showed my photo, credited to me, which then led users back to my Flickr photo.

Only problem was, it was attached to a cinema called "Pasquino" which has no apparent link with the statue. I was gutted. I even checked. The address is different, just the name remains the same.

Oh Emma. You very nearly had me for life. I had actually envisaged you and a colleague, maybe with one of those mini telescope things, poring over my photo and comparing my shot to some other poor Schmoe's wondering which of us really captured the spirit of the thing.

I have sent an email pointing out their error and asking for the photo to be withdrawn given their mistake, but it feels like it'll be less use than when my mum wrote to Fenchurch Street station to complain about what she perceived to be a cartel of snack vendors operating within the station falsely raising the price of chunky KitKats.

Now with no station master to appeal to, you tell me: is this a forgivable error by a company with a very smart method of both marketing and content building? Or maybe just a good old ego bubble burst for someone who forgot this used to be called vanity publishing?

P.S. Yes, I am deliberately, petulantly and pointlessly not linking to the Schmaps site.

Later note: Emma wrote to me and apologised! The weary tone of the email suggested they were not happy with a bunch of similar mistakes. I am grateful, and everyone does make mistakes. Link to site duly reinstated (I bet that stung for a while tho).

Friday, January 04, 2008

Quick Plug for Big Brother Celebrity Hijack Site

Just a quick note to encourage you to take a look at the Celebrity Big Brother Hijack sites on both and

On the main site, we've updated the design significantly given the E4 hijacking, got loads more integrated video and are trying to keep the site updated as much as possible with rolling headlines as well as loads more frequent news stories.

And the programme is shaping up pretty well too ... poor John ...

Would be interested in hearing any views.

PS If you really get into it, we've also updated our Big Brother Facebook application thanks to our friends at Nooked.