Friday, March 23, 2007

"If we gather a crowd of 20,000, the government will not use its guns"

Some brave words from Zimbabwe's Archbishop Pius Ncube, who nobly says that he is "ready to stand in front" in what he hopes will be the country's biggest popular demonstration calling for an end to the despotic rule of President Robert Mugabe. Following the brutal bludgeoning of opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai during a prayer rally last week, a crowd half the size hoped for by Ncube would be impressive, but regardless of how many turn out, it's hard not to feel a terrible sense of foreboding about such an event. In my mind, at least, a potential Amritsar massacre-style tragedy is looming. Will that be enough to rouse South Africa and other leading nations of the continent out of their slumber and take action in Zimbabwe? Because I think it'll be awhile yet before anyone else deems the situation to be of enough geopolitical importance to give a damn.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Off tae Edinburgh

...although my heart will be in Glasgow.

Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An open letter to Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch


As every housewife knows, sometimes the only way to communicate with men is through a simple yet irritating to-do list. Therefore, I would be extremely grateful if you could pay attention to the following, which has been constructed in terms that are clear and direct enough for even you to understand:

1. Please, please, please, for the sake of all that is good, limit your public battles to ONE media source. Fat chance, I know, but remember that there is nothing so counterproductive as overkill. Between full-page ads in the newspapers, radio slots extolling the virtues of your respective broadband package deals, rival TV and web campaigns and even leaflets pushed through our front doors, we've all long since reached saturation point.

2. Drop the "friendly letter" approach in your print ads, right now. This particularly applies to Virgin Media. You're not our friend, we're not on a first-name basis, and we certainly aren't stupid enough to equate signing up for your services with joining some trendy and exclusive club.

3. If you must fork out such exorbitant sums on advertising, at least have the balls to make your adverts focus on what's good about your services rather than what's crap (read: slightly less good) about those of your main rival. Spinning the Sky v. Virgin Media debacle as vital consumer information does precisely nothing to disguise the fact that it is merely an expensive game of billionaire Pong.

(Mmmm, Pong.)

4. When it comes right down to it, this is a battle about TV rights, as the other parts of what's on offer from Sky and Virgin Media are pretty much the same. And let's face it, "Richard", on the TV front you've already lost, as Sky has got the sports AND Lost, and you don't. So suck it up.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Nobody's business but the Turks'"...*

Here's a pretty little case of censorship in what purports to be a modern-day European state. A Turkish court has banned all access to the YouTube website from within Turkey. Why? According to the BBC, citing Turkish media sources, it's all down to dissing Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey:

[T]here has been a "virtual war" between Greek and Turkish
users of the site, with both sides posting insulting videos. The clip prompting the ban reportedly dubbed Ataturk and Turks homosexuals.
Insulting Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey, or "Turkishness" is an offence which can result in a prison sentence.
Is it a characteristic of "Turkishness" to overreact to criticism, no matter how puerile? This Ataturk/Turk-bashing law is nothing new, and regularly makes news headlines. But choosing to impose a blanket ban on access to YouTube (and that's ALL of YouTube, not just the offending clips) rather than just taking down the clips that breach the law or prosecuting the people who put them up (which I'd also oppose, obviously) seems a draconian measure to take. Okay, so it's not the most pressing issue in Turkey, but for me, these little issues of everyday freedoms say just as much about a country as their wider political, economic and religious outlook. Is Turkey ready to join the EU? Hell no.

Mind you, it's not just Turkey that's attempting to crack down on internet freedoms. According to Wired, via AP, oh-so-liberal France has just introduced a new law that "makes it a crime for anyone who is not a professional journalist to film real-world violence and distribute the images on the Internet". The point? To discourage teenage hoodies from filming incidents of happy-slapping on their mobile and then stick it up on the net (probably on YouTube) for the entertainment of others. Good intentions, horrible implementation...

* In case you were wondering (with apologies for lack of access to any Turkey-based readers out there). I challenge you not to have this stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Tell it like it is

James Murphy distills perfectly the feeling all North Americans get upon first arriving in Europe, in the latest LCD Soundsystem single, North American Scum. You know exactly what I mean. Americans who immediately say "I didn't vote for him" upon being introduced to you. Dealing with the constant stares and double-takes when talking louder than a whisper in public. The usually male geeks who have never left North America in their lives but try to give themselves a cachet by becoming walking encyclopedias of Britpop, and then are all heartbroken when they make their first visit to England and can't figure out why everybody isn't tripping over themselves to watch Coldplay perform at Live Aid.

I especially like the sarcastic "But don't blame the Canadians" right at the end, as in, how come everybody hates us but not them? Don't feel too bad, James. There may be some advantages to being a small country that everyone ignores, but at the same time, there's only one thing worse than being talked about...

Anyway folks, one for the iPod/turntable/stereo.