Posts Tagged BBC

Stirring the pot

Stirring the pot

I can’t believe I haven’t posted for over a month: tempus fugit. Nothing at all in November, a month that has seen Europe on the brink of financial collapse, the press being brought to book for all sorts of unseemingly skullduggery, and Libya being transformed into a healthy and flourishing democracy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Liberate me ex inferis

Liberate me ex inferis

It has taken a mass mobilisation of the police, a sudden move towards what looks like instant justice and the usual soundbites and mealy-mouthed proclamations, but it finally appears that the spate of urban unrest and looting – or this phase of it at least – is over. As the dust is beginning to settle on the broken streets of England’s cities, who or what to focus our attention on is beginning to dominate the political agenda. Read the rest of this entry »

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Milan and Masterchef

Milan and Masterchef

Nope, I am not fashioning a recipe for a new pasta or pizza dish, though yesterday I did turn out a rather marvellous roast pheasant – which only needed a bit of butter to crisp up the skin and a smattering of Braai salt with Lemon Pepper. Tip to all you Saffers out there: Braai salt is not just for the Braai, it works bloody marvellously on almost everything. Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m still here…

I'm still here...

It has been a long, long while since I last posted. OK, I have been extremely busy: work, my German football website, the ongoing Michael Wittmann project… Sometimes it feels as though there aren’t enough hours to fill the day. Then there iare the usual issues encountered by any writer: far too many stories to write about, the depressing nature of these stories, and a slowly developing malaise. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Winter Wonderland

A Winter Wonderland

Those of you that know me well will have some idea why the blog has been something of a tumbleweed zone for the past week or so – yes, the Winter Olympics.

There’s something I have always loved about winter sports; it has a certain something that the summer games doesn’t quite provide. Watching sprinters and swimmers break world records is of course enjoyable, but the tension experienced when watching either a number of competitors on the biathlon rifle range or a bobsled rocketing down a treacherous track just cannot be matched.

Thank God though for satellite television, as terrrestrial coverage of what some would describe as the “unpopular” sports has been its usual dire self. This is in comparison to the lavish coverage of the “fashionable” sports and something of an overkill in some departments. While the snowboard halfpipe is great to watch, those of us without satellite or cable would be none the wiser about the the biathlon or Nordic skiing events – which are just as if not even more exciting. Hell, to most people the Nordic Combined could be a Saturday-evening game show hosted by Ulrika Jonsson and Mariella Frostrup.

Magdalena Neuner

Now there's a sport worth watching: Lena Neuner on target in the biathlon

Meanwhile, freeview even chopped the Olympics feed for a short while to bring us – wait for it – the EastEnders quiz. The less said about televisual virus, that the better.

The build-up to the women’s downhill was one such example of media overkill – it didn’t take too long until I was tired of Lindsey Vonn, and as pretty as she is I was ready to throw the nearest solid object at the television when I was confronted with the BBC’s “The Vonn Show” skit. I wonder how much this cost them to produce – oh how I laughed when she straddled a gate in the combined slalom and handed the gold to Maria Riesch. Bonus.

Worse still was “Miller Time” – pitter-pattered ad nauseum whenever American bad boy Bode Miller took to the slopes. I know some people like to think we have some sort of special relationship with our transatlantic Amis, but to try and adopt them as our own – as the BBC so often does – is lame in the extreme.

I’d say that the Beeb’s obsession with the fashionable and glamourous – and this does not include their designer jackets paid for by the taxpayer – even served to flatten the rightly-deserved euphoria of Amy Williams’ magnificent gold medal winning performance in the bob skeleton. Yes, there was the usual media flim-flam and interviews with the parents, siblings and family dog, but after that it just frittered away.

The truth is that unlike the party-loving alpine ski set, Williams is a hard working athlete in what is essentially a sport nobody would want to do even if a gun was put to their head. Sliding down an icy tunnel on a tin tray? You have to be a nutter to do that, donchaknow. Yes, you have to be slightly crazy, but then millions of us have to endure using public transport every morning – something that is infinitely worse. Better hurtling down a freezing Eisbahn at 60mph as opposed to being crammed like sardines in what is little more than a slow-moving petri dish.

While success in the skeleton is never going to provide a long-term story, one can only wonder what would have happened if glamourpuss Chemmy Alcott had won a gold – all hell would have broken loose and the fashionistas would have come a running. There would have been endorsements, book deals, a slot on some high-profile reality show and a front-page shot of her groping Julia Mancuso’s tits. Meanwhile, Amy Williams and the other members of the skeleton crew would be spending the next four years begging for scraps from the lottery fund.

Amy Williams

Amy Williams in the skeleton: more sliding sports on TV, please!

One thing that really put a bad taste in the mouth were the protests by the Canadians about Williams’ allegedly “illegal” helmet – and this after their own competitor had trashed her final run to finish out of the medals. It appears that Canada has shed its previous humble mantle and become more like its neighbour America: brash and loud when they win – witness men’s skeleton winner Jon Montgomery’s embarrassing fist pumping and screaming when his Latvian opponent ran in outside the clock – and sorry and sore losers when things don’t go their way. It’s telling that the Germans who finished second and third behind Williams took their defeat in good grace, offering genuinely warm congratulations instead of making groundless complaints.

Canada’s almost maniacal desire to succeed (again, echoing the behaviour of their southern neighbours) was epitomised by its “Own The Podium” scheme, which among other things conspired to prevent its opponents from getting a good sight of the facilities prior to the games – so I actually found it hilarious when Williams and the two Germans trumped home hope Mellisa Hollingsworth (yes, it’s Mellisa, not a typo) who probably had ten times as many practice runs down that hazardous Whistler track. Even funnier was the tight-turn topple of the Canadian bobsled driven by Lyndon Rush, who in spite (or perhaps because of) his familiarity with the nasty capsized on the unlucky thirteenth. Meanwhile, the magnificent André Lange breezed through all four runs as if it was like a day out on his home track at Oberhof. Now there’s a man who is both a winner and a sportsman. As a long-time bobsled fan, I will miss big André and the even bigger Kevin Küske when they both retire after the games.

Of course, the alternative to playing a balancing game between the fashionable items and the unfashionable ones is to rebrand the otherwise unfashionable ones. Yes, I am talking about curling.

When Britain (or should I say Scotland – let’s be blunt here) won the gold in Salt Lake in 2002 the game was unknown outside of the Highlands – it was also seen as a sport for the middle aged, with participants being a far cry from the fit and toned alpine skiers or the crazy bobsledders. Indeed, we just needed to look no further than the two British skips, the matronly Rhona Martin and the schoolmasterly Hammy McMillan. Fast-forward to 2010, and how things have changed. Curling is now being billed as a sport for sexy chicks – we have a Swiss player with a tongue piercing, a willowy Russian blonde, and a rather fetching teenage German redhead. The blokes are still for the most part middle aged and balding, however. Funny that.

In most of the teams the youngsters have been shielded by more experienced players, but this is not the case with the British team, which is perhaps gone overboard in its attempt to “sex up” the sport by appointing a rather attractive nineteen year old skip, Eve Muirhead.

OK, I am not a curling expert but to see a pretty young thing like Eve Muirhead boss about a trio of of her elders – one of whom is probably old enough to be her mother – was a little bit disconcerting. I suppose it was all fine and dandy when the team were winning, but when the wheels started to fall off in rather spectacular fashion you could sense the lack of collective spirit – especially when poor Eve herself has been largely responsible for some absolute howlers that have been instrumental in Team GB losing four matches on the bounce.

Eve Muirhead

Eve Muirhead: Too much too soon

Worse still was yesterday’s display against Denmark which saw Muirhead carry out the sort of demolition job on her broom that John McEnroe would have done with many a tennis racket. You could sense the commentators itching to say something – it was at times pretty painful to watch.

This folly was best illustrated when Steve Cram (yes, Steve Cram – the great middle distance runner) interviewed the team after their catastrophic loss to Switzerland and directed all of the questions towards a more senior member, while the sad-faced young skip was left standing there like a lemon. It was as if they didn’t want to interview her lest she burst into tears there and then. I really felt sorry for her – and while she may be a good player the truth is that she is not that good. Yet.

Ultimately, the blame rests with the team selectors, whose decision to appoint Muirhead as skip has spectacularly backfired. OK, they have achieved their aim and guaranteed the additional television coverage and media exposure – but in hindsight it would have been far better if the team had reached the final stages with a skip that looked like a bag of spanners.

Still, we all know who Eve Muirhead is now – if her curling career falls flat and she gets rid of the silly chavvy two-tone hairdo she can easily make it as a TV presenter. Well, if Steve Cram can…

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“The Black Jeremy Beadle”? Hmm, right.

"The Black Jeremy Beadle"? Hmm, right.

In what has been a fairly slow week for news, making the headlines this week was one Michael Burton – a gas fitter from Peckham who made a rather forgettable appearance on the BBC prime-time quiz Mastermind.

The programme was actually aired last week, and having watched it at the time my only conclusion was that Burton’s chosen topic – angels – was more than a bit bizarre and vague, and that his woeful lack of general knowledge suggested that he was just a little bit thick. Who, for example, is not aware of the fact that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand?

Having made the headlines a week after this fiasco Burton is now saying that it was all an elaborate prank, and that he is actually not a dunce after all. No, he is the black Jeremy Beadle. Erm, right – and I am the King of Siam. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Even if Burton might now reveal himself to be a genius, one thing won’t change – the fact that he’s a prat. The way this story has panned out is pretty much in line with my long-held belief that the fastest way to make oneself known is to be – or act like – an idiot; it certainly gets one noticed.  With the possible exception of their close friends and relatives, I doubt anyone who watch Mastermind can remember those other contestants who have been in the black chair so far in this series; in fact I doubt that they can even remember the overall winner of last year’s series. Many, however, will end up remembering Michael Burton. Perhaps this is the point, and maybe he is a lot cleverer than we all believe. Or not.

According to Burton in the Daily Mail, “the idea was to get seven points because I knew it matched the lowest and that I have got seven children… I got a point each for my seven children”. Meanwhile, according to another source Burton provided a far more elaborate explanation:

“I did it because I am into numerology and the number seven has special significance for me. It is also the number of children I have so I wanted to get a point for each of them and involve them in my spiritual journey.”

I had always assumed that there was some sort of screening procedure for Mastermind, the sort of process that would have eliminated Burton before he even had the chance to make himself look like a prize prat on prime-time television; picture this scenario, and please excuse my cynicism…

BBC Executive 1: “Mastermind is just too geeky for its own good.”
BBC Executive 2: “And too white.”
BBC Exec 1: “Yep. And old.”
BBC Exec 2: “Even the young ones we get in the black chair are too geeky, and the ethnic ones are all Asian doctors and maths geeks with long Tamil names…”
BBC Exec 1: “What can we do, Tarquin?”
BBC Exec 2: “Push out the diversity boat. We need a black chap.”
BBC Exec 1: “What about the guy Dave from ‘Are you an Egghead’? He’s good.”
BBC Exec 2: “Yeah, I like the way he says “Daph-er-ny” in that Mancunian accent. Yes, he is good. But we can’t spread him around too much. I think he’s been on Mastermind before anyway.”
BBC Exec 1: “Oh, fiddlesticks. What do we do? It’s all old people this week.”
BBC Exec 2: “I know a guy. Black guy. He sorted out my boiler – knows everything about the Robbie Williams song, Angels…”
BBC Exec 1: “Angels eh? Interesting topic. He’s our guy.”
BBC Exec 2: “Marvellous. Let’s get him on the show. Don’t worry about his ability – it’s the face that counts.”
BBC Exec 1: “You can’t say we’re not applying best diversity practice, eh?”

Whichever way one looks at it, Burton – whose seven children were magically spawned from six different women – comes out as little more than a wacko; perhaps this is all part of his unique spiritual identity. Or something.

While I think this sort of publicity stunt should get the offender immediately carted off in a straitjacket by the men in white coats, it will in all likelihood serve as some sort of springboard for further publicity. I can actually see this clown making an appearance on morning television or some lame early evening “entertainment” show.

Sadly, I don’t think we have seen the last of this chap.

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“A cognitive malaise”

"A cognitive malaise"

For all of the dross one can find online – badly written articles, fansites dedicated to the fictitious lives of soap characters, spam advertising – there are some gems out there on the Internet. One such gem is the article published today by writer and physician Raymond Tallis that provides an startlingly accurate critique of the celebrity culture that in slowly infecting the cultural fabric of Western society.

I could not have described this phenomenon any better:

This is the celebrity culture, and some will tell you that if it makes you vomit or rage, “just get over it”. Even King Canute (that one-factoid celebrity) gave up when he saw the ice-cream vans floating in the sea. Besides, there are, surely, worse curses: violence, greed, poverty and — looking farther afield — civil war, dictatorship, plague. Even so, celebrity is a curse […] It is a cognitive malaise that affects us all.

Tallis namedrops the usual suspects: Amy Winehouse, whose undoubted talent pales into insignificance against the dark backdrop of her sordid private life; Katie Price aka “Jordan”, an uncouth nonentity whose claim to fame has little or nothing to do with any form of talent, and Victoria Beckham, a feckless nobody who has somehow been elevated in some very soft minds as the queen of what is bright and beautiful. He fails however to mention the late Jade Goody, who inspite of her utter gormlessness was some presented as the nation’s latest official celebrity culture martyr.

The celebrity culture is a black hole sucking up light. It is not only a manifestation of the cretinisation or tabloidisation of our culture but further cretinises it.

Most of us with more than a single brain cell know that such individuals are total nobodies without their publicists and agents; the problem is that while even twenty years ago people like this would have had their fifteen minutes only to rightfully fade away into deserved obscurity, today there is so much money to be made that they are more often than not set up for life. This of course means that they are continually able to buy their way back into the limelight. Perform some inane act. “Write” a book. Get commissioned by the BBC to get sent around the world at the licence payer’s expense to talk about things they clearly know sweet bugger all about.

Why must we have Steven Fry tell us about endangered species? OK, he may have a passing interest in the subject, but is he there because he is a naturalist, because he is educated in the field? Or is it because we simply know his face? Instead of sending Fry to the back of beyond, the BBC could have spent a fraction of the cash and employed someone with a real qualified interest – someone who, perhaps, could become the next David Attenborough. Instead of sending the “comedy Brit abroad” Paul Merton to India, they could send someone with a genuine cultural interest; instead of having someone like Tony Robinson host all of these programmes on ancient history, they could provide us with a real historian.

Stephen Fry: A comedy Attenborough?

Stephen Fry: A comedy Attenborough?

I am actually waiting for the next documentary feature on the First World War to come out, which would be fronted by the team from Blackadder goes Forth. We would have Lieutenant George fill us in on the life of the upper classes, old Slackbladder himself provide us with tales of the regular professional soldier, and General Melchett would give us the gen on what things were like for those who sat far behind the lines. Of course, the louse-ridden Baldrick would give us a gritty take on what life was like for the rat-eating regular Tommy. The actual educational value of such a project like most of this sort of expensive guff would be minimal, but it would certainly draw in the viewers – and perhaps an expensive covershoot and interview for the Radio Times.

Of course, this is at the high end of the scale; at the bottom of the pile we have those who have got to where they are for no real reason at all. If you work hard doing a decent job for most of your life, you will simply remain one of the crowd; however if you perform fellatio on a professional footballer or happen to be the publicity-hungry girlfriend of an alleged rapist, you can – with the right publicist, of course – become a celebrity in your own right. I am not just making this up, of course: I will have to admit to having heard of both Rebecca Loos and Abi Titmuss. They even have names that suit; you cannot make any of it up.

Of course, one could justifiably argue that the fact the likes of Raymond Tallis (and me for that matter) are spending time writing about this stuff is proof that those of us who would consider ourselves critics of this nonsense have also been infected with the virus. It is perhaps galling to admit, but it is true that one has to absorb part of something to be in the position to offer a critique of it, let alone outright condemnation.

At least I am able to draw the lines; what scares me is that we are witnessing a generation who have grown up on this rubbish and know little better. The fact that many young people admire the lifestyle of these media-manufactured oxygen thieves is even more terrifying; it does chill me when I see one of those documentaries where a six-year old girl – with all the genuine honesty of a six-year old – tells everyone that she wants to be like Jordan when she grows up.


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Unite Against Foolishness

Unite Against Foolishness

Yet again the British National Party make their way into the news when they should have been left to trot along, but those who have only served to make their case stronger seem intent on magnifying what is, in truth, a minor issue. Read the rest of this entry »

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Strictly Bullshit…

Strictly Bullshit...

Am I the only one to have had enough of this Strictly Come Dancing crap? I try my darndest to avoid this sort of thing, yet when I am there looking for news yet another non-story about this bullshit is sitting above what are far more important headlines.

OK, so some non-entity served up a racial insult – or in-joke, whatever you wish – to another non-entity. Cue yet another bunch of non-entities getting into a merry flap about it. The truth is, do we really care? Is this non-story worthy of being reported alongside more serious headlines, or is it just a ploy by the BBC to get more viewers to switch across from the equally dire X-Factor?

According to one article, the number of complaints about this incident have “quadrupled”. Now perhaps I am being deliberately obtuse here, but surely complaints should be issued at the time of airing? Might those who have since complained have been offended days after the event? Did some people mull over the issue and then decide whether they were offended or not?

Of course, this is all moot as the incident was off-air anyway, which makes the existence of these “viewer complaints” even more ridiculous; it is quite clear that this saga is being driven, controlled and directed by the media.

It’s all nonsense, really – and I do have to wonder what a woman of mixed Moroccan and Indian descent would need spray tan for. That said, I have wondered why anyone needs spray tan – what’s the bloody point, given that you end up looking like a walking advert for a popular orange soft drink?

Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.

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