Archive for September, 2009

Follow “The Sun”? – not on your life!!!

September 30, 2009

At last, after some weeks of searching for some good reasons for giving Gordon Brown and Labour my continued support, The Sun announces that Labour and Brown has lost its support and gives me the best possible reason I can think of for not changing my allegiances .

One has to own up and say that it’s almost a point of honour with me that I am  for anything that the Murdoch’s and his platoon of morally bankrupt mischief-makers are against – and there is very little doubt they are behind The Sun‘s decision – and vice versa. The moment they said, twelve years ago, that they were supporting Tony Blair was the moment Labour began to drop in my estimation.

The Sun's front pages 2009 & 1997

The Sun's front pages 2009 & 1997

Thinking about tinkers.

September 29, 2009

Although in my youth the traveller community was a familiar feature of the Irish landscape,  I’ve not read any books that have focused attention on the community, its history,  or the relationship – often a fraught – between it and the settled community. Nor do I have I read anything about the relationship between the state and Ireland’s oldest minority group.

The only major studies of any aspect of tinker life are those of are those of anthropologists Sharon & Geoge Gmelch. Their books (The Irish Tinkers;The Urbanization of an Itinerant-People & Tinkers and Travellers: Ireland’s Nomads), although I have seen them on the shelves, never got on to my required  reading list.

 A bad conscience about not having even dipped into the Gmelch’s books and about knowing so little about the travelling community,  together with some little prompting from a  person close to the author, has made me think I could do worse than cure my ignorance by dipping into  maybe José Lanters tome The Tinkers in Irish Literature: Unsettled Subjects and the Construction of Difference might a book worth starting with.

The Tinkers

Let newspapers die if they must.

September 29, 2009

Here is a terrifically good reason for keeping an eye on what John Naughton has been posting to his online diary.

Don’t Bail Out Newspapers

Nice rant by Daniel Lyons.

The only beneficiaries of a bailout would be a handful of big newspaper companies that used to be profitable and powerful and now, well, aren’t. Those companies saw the Internet charging toward them like a freight train, and they just stood there on the tracks. They didn’t adapt. Why? Because for decades these companies enjoyed virtual monopolies, and as often happens to monopolists, they got lazy. They invested their resources in protecting their monopolies, using bully tactics to keep new competitors from entering their markets. They dished up an inferior product and failed to believe that anything or anyone could ever take their little gold mines away from them.

It’s hilarious to hear these folks puff themselves up with talk about being the Fourth Estate, performing some valuable public service for readers—when in fact the real customer has always been the advertiser, not the reader. That truth has been laid bare in recent years. As soon as papers got desperate for cash, they dropped their ’sacred principles’ as readily as a call girl sheds her clothes. Ads on the front page? Reporters assigned to write sponsored content? No problem.

And moreover,

Meanwhile, all of us need to get over this pious notion about the sanctity of the newspaper. I’ve been a journalist for 27 years, and I love that romantic old notion of the newsroom as much as the next guy. But I recently canceled my two morning papers — The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal — because I got tired of carrying them from the front porch to the recycling bin, sometimes without even looking at them. Fact is, I only care about a tiny percentage of what those papers publish, and I can read them on my computer or my iPhone. And I can rely on blogs and Twitter to steer me to articles worth reading.

As for all the hand-wringing about the great “in-depth” information that only a newspaper can provide, let’s be honest: the typical daily newspaper does a lousy job. It tries to provide a little bit of everything — politics, sports, business, celebrity stuff — and as a result it doesn’t do anything particularly well. Ask anyone who’s an expert in anything — whether it’s bicycle racing or brain surgery — what they think when they read a newspaper article about their field. Chances are they cringe, because the material is so dumbed-down, and because it’s so clear that whoever wrote the article has no real expertise on this topic.

He’s right. Alas.

I myself have not quite got round to carrying newspapers from the front porch to the recycling bin, but I have to say that I am beginning to lose my patience with some of the papers I’ve regularly bought for many years. I can actually forsee, for example, the day when I’ll be cancelling my order for The Observer, even though it’s been in place for the last 45 years.

Strictly Come Dancing’s unlovely side.

September 28, 2009

I rather like –and agree with most of – what Germane Greer has to about Strictly Come Dancing in the G2 section of today’s edition of The Guardian

Competitive ballroom dancing was always famous for ridiculous clothes, most of them lovingly confected by the dancers themselves or their mothers. In that storm of surging tulle, fashion was no more an issue than taste. For the Latin routines, ballroom dancers wore rather less than the average lap-dancer. This isn’t, needless to say, what ballroom dancing is about. You don’t learn it at school because it’s fun, but because it will be expected of you on formal occasions. You should be able to do it with the bishop without embarrassing yourself or him.

There certainly in what she says by way of conclusion:

If there wasn’t an element of sadism in Strictly, the noble British public would not watch it. The humiliation of celebrities is part of its appeal. Strictly can transform a truly beautiful and graceful woman into a fairground puppet, lacquered bright orange, lips gaping in a perpetual grin, hips grinding, shoulders shimmying. All the lipstick in the world couldn’t conceal the fact that Lynda Bellingham’s fixed smile is a rictus of pure terror. Chris Hollins can puff out his chest and look stern, but nobody will let him forget that it was his mother at rehearsal who had to tell him how to dance sexy. …………….

Paul Graham’s rule of thumb.

September 25, 2009

Paul Graham in a new blog-piece called  Post-Medium Publishing, in which he deals interestingly about what is happening to publishing as a business now that new technology means  “consumers won’t pay for content anymore”, comes up with a way of judging who will be winners and losers here that is, I think,  a good one and one whch, with not too much tweaking,  could be applied elsewhere.

 I don’t know exactly what the future will look like, but I’m not too worried about it. This sort of change tends to create as many good things as it kills. Indeed, the really interesting question is not what will happen to existing forms, but what new forms will appear.

The reason I’ve been writing about existing forms is that I don’t know what new forms will appear. But though I can’t predict specific winners, I can offer a recipe for recognizing them. When you see something that’s taking advantage of new technology to give people something they want that they couldn’t have before, you’re probably looking at a winner. And when you see something that’s merely reacting to new technology in an attempt to preserve some existing source of revenue, you’re probably looking at a loser.

Is Obama winning healthcare battle?

September 24, 2009

It’s heartening to read that the GOP opposition to President  Obama’s reform of healthcare is not so much evaporating as never there in the first place

 A Bloomberg poll asked which right-wing objections people found legitimate, and which were “scare tactics.” Basically, voters rejected GOP rhetoric almost 2-to-1. About 63 percent think Sarah Palin’s “death panels” are a distortion, versus 30 percent who fear them. It’s 61 to 33 percent on the claim that health reform means government-paid abortions, 58 to 37 percent on the false claim that illegal aliens will get subsidized insurance, etc.

 However it is worrying to read that the penalties being paid by the poorer sectors of the American population – those it’s designed to help – could put them in opposition to it.

The bill as proposed by Sen. Max Baucus, Democrat,  Montana, would, it seems, “force millions of working Americans currently without coverage to spend up to 13 percent of their annual income on private health insurance policies they can’t afford.”

 Democratic bloggers boast about how brilliantly Obama schooled George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ “This Week.” The host wondered whether a government mandate requiring people to buy health insurance wasn’t a steep tax increase. Obama argued semantics. “For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase.”

No, Mr. President, it’s not. Technically speaking. But it’s thousands of bucks out of the pockets of people who’ve already decided they can’t afford insurance. Sure, some are improvident deadbeats willing to take their chances, visit the emergency room as necessary, and stick everybody else with the bill. But most just can’t find the money.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean insists that, for the bill to be effective, in must affordable to the least well off, and that means that it must include something that’s not included in its present form – a competitive public insurance plan.

 “Because it’s the only thing that works … If controlling costs, which is part of the president’s agenda, is going to happen, you have to have a public option. If you want to get some people insured by 2010, which I think is essential for the future of the Democratic Party, you have to have a public option.”

Cuts and the economy.

September 17, 2009

It is, though I don’t know why it should be, astonishing just how quickly we seem to have forgotten how and why the current economic crisis occurred and got back to the business of arguing about how public debt is a the source of all our economic woes.

 You don’t have to agree with everything Seumas Milne has to say in today’s edition of The Guardian to recognise that he is quite correct in saying that there has been a shift in emphasis about what needs to be done about solving the problems the economy is facing.  

 Instead of an argument about how to beat the slump triggered by the banking crash, all three main political parties are now competing over how to cut public spending and services. Cheered on by the bulk of the media, Cameron and Osborne have executed a startling sleight of hand, persuading a large section of the public that the real crisis facing the country isn’t the havoc wreaked on jobs and living standards by the breakdown of the free-market model — but the increase in government debt incurred to pay for it.

It may look as though this is a result of  Cameron and Osborne  having  ” executed a startling sleight of hand”,  but, in my opinion, it pretty much down to Brown’s make radical changes about how we thought about the “free market” on the back what he did to save the economy. He just simply cannot bring himself take on the bankers and the city, and that means that he has, from the outset,  allowed others to set agendas.

Breaking the code.

September 15, 2009

I’m not all that sympathetic with teachers in England are who complain that the  profession’s watchdog, the General Teaching Council for England (GTC), is going too  in introducing a code conduct – which comes into force next month –  which says teachers must “maintain reasonable standards in their own behaviour that enable them to uphold public trust and confidence in the profession”

 It seems to me that if teachers want to be trusted and respected, they should earn that trust and respect by their public conduct.

Of course, I would not wish to see this “conduct unbecoming” code being used as an excuse to exclude teachers from fully participating in the body politic. Nor would I like to see a return to this

 I am intrigued by the NASUWT’s opposition to the code of conduct. When I joined NAS in the late 60s they issued me with a handbook of moral and social imperatives. My favourite was “A teacher should not get drunk on Saturday night or answer the door in his braces”

Peter Baker, Leicester

(The Guardian Tuesday 15.09.2009)

New journalism.

September 14, 2009

In a fascinating piece for today’s edition of The Guardian, the always thought-provoling  Jeff Jarvis suggests that those who wish to continue in paid journalism should consider a “future no longer controlled by a single newspaper but instead by an ecosystem made up of many players with varying motives, means and models, working collaboratively in networks”

We see the faint beginnings of this ecosystem today in the 10,000 hyperlocal bloggers who operate in the US, according to the hyperlocal network outside.in. They are being joined, almost daily it seems, by unemployed professional journalists intent on continuing to report and eating while doing so – for example the New Jersey Newsroom, the Ann Arbor Chronicle, and My Football Writer in Norwich. At CUNY, we surveyed more than 100 of these local-site proprietors and some are becoming profitable.

Keep in mind that few, if any, of these bloggers and journalists have experience in business, advertising or sales. So in our project, we suggest that there are many ways to optimise their businesses. Start by improving the products and services they offer to local traders. Then add the potential of regional advertising that will need outlets when the metro paper dies, as well as smaller networks made up of a few towns or built around interests such as parenting or sports. We even see potential for e-commerce revenue, following the example of the Telegraph, which sells hangers and hats, and now Utah’s Salt Lake Tribune, which has begun selling homes………………..[link]

 • Jeff Jarvis blogs at buzzmachine.com

Tobin’s tour of Ireland

September 2, 2009

After a lengthy and partly intentional hiatus, I return to maintaining this online diary with a reminder  – thanks to the online Jazzwise Magazine – that one of my favourite jazz singers, the award-wining Christine Tobin, is to begin her Irish tour in October. 

Christine Tobin is to embark on a major autumn Irish tour beginning next month. From Dublin originally but long since resident in England in London and more recently Kent, Christine Tobin says: “I’m delighted to have a tour in Ireland – back in the home country. It’s very important to me because although I have done the odd gig in Dublin this is my first tour there since the late-1990s and significantly it’s my first tour there since I was awarded best vocalist at the BBC Jazz Awards. I say significantly because I’m the only Irish person ever to receive a BBC Jazz Award and I’m very proud to return with such an accolade.”

 Tour dates

 Cleeres, Kilkenny (1 October);

Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford (2 October),

Siamsa Tire Theatre Tralee (3 October),

Carnegie Arts Centre, Kenmare (4 October),

Triiskel Jazz at Jurys Hotel, Cork (6 October),

De Burgos, Galway (7 October)

Mermaid Arts Centre., Bray (8 October),

 Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge (9 October),

Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny (10 October)

JJ Smyths, Dublin (11 October).