Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Welcome to the BBC, where the Thought Police are alive and kicking

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain recently issued a press release following the BBC’s rejection of Caryl Churchill’s 'Seven Jewish Children', a play criticising Israel’s invasion of Gaza. Radio 4’s Commissioning Editor for Drama, Jeremy Howe, said that although he thought the play was a “brilliant piece” the BBC could not broadcast the play “on the grounds of impartiality”. Howe went onto to say, “It would be nearly impossible to run a drama that counters Caryl Churchill’s view.”

Somebody should have told Jeremy to break the pills in two. It’s utter lunacy that a commissioning editor for drama would read a piece of drama that he considers a “brilliant piece” and subsequently reject it on the grounds that he would need to find another piece of drama to offer a counter argument to justify the commission? Huh? Exactly what planet do I send my license fee to? How rare must it be for a drama commissioning editor to discover a piece of drama they actually deem to be brilliant? And to then not commission it? It’s a decision that makes no artistic sense whatsoever. Exactly what kind of play is Radio 4 looking for, if not brilliant?

One year ago, Jeffery himself answered that: "At its best Radio 4 is challenging, curious and mischievous. And is content rich. [Radio 4 are looking for] a good story told in a fresh and original way. It is that simple. Good dialogue is pretty crucial. Because it is a single it has to stand out, it has to grab us.” Right. So there’s your BBC submitting guidelines: aim for all the above but just make sure it’s not brilliant. Oh, and also don’t make it controversial and also not anything likely to upset the government, please.

As worrying as this blatant censorship is, unfortunately it comes as no surprise when you consider the BBC’s shocking refusal, in January 2009, to broadcast a charity plea for Gaza by the Disasters Emergency Committee on similar grounds. The decision on its own was abhorrent, but for them to cite impartiality as a motive is ridiculous. Impartiality to what, exactly? The charity DEC cited that “at least 412 Children have been killed and 1,855 injured” and wanted to broadcast an urgent plea in a desperate attempt to slow, and ultimately halt, the continuing deaths of more children in Gaza. Unfortunately that route of publicity was denied them by decision makers whose motives are founded on the importance of upholding an institution over the less important lives of children.

Is this the same due diligence to impartiality that, following our government’s brutal and illegal assault on Iraq in 2003, saw the BBC’s then Political Editor, Andrew Marr, on the steps of number 10 Downing Street, gleefully telling BBC viewers that Tony Blair had “said they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating, and on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right.” That’s the height of BBC impartiality, is it? With Amnesty and UNICEF having publicly estimated over half a million Iraqis dead, children dying from chronic malnutrition and diarrhoea (one in eight dying before their fifth birthday), a contaminated water supply and crippled energy grid, over four million refugees, and whole regions practically glowing with the promise of cancer as a result of non-stop Allied bombardment with depleted uranium. Yep. Let’s all hear it for BBC impartiality.

The BBC produces an internal free newspaper run by its own staff for its own staff. They're stocked in reception for us all to grab a copy and read what's going on inside our place of work. In the edition published after the blocked Gaza appeal, the letters page was titled “In blocking Gaza appeal we are taking sides” and each letter voiced strong opinion against the decision not to broadcast the charity appeal. BBC producer, Jonathon Renouf, said: “There is a smell of fear about this decision. Fear of controversy, fear of criticism, fear of repercussions. Perhaps this is the true fallout from the Hutton Report, Queengate and Jonathon Ross; an organization so mired in fear that it finds itself able to sacrifice aid to the victims of war for a principle that nobody (outside the BBC higher echelons) seems to believe was at stake.”

If that is the case, which it increasingly looks to be, it would suggest some tough times ahead for those writers hoping to push boundaries and inspire change. Not quite so tough, though, as the future of those children denied a chance by a public service broadcaster whose primary motivation is a commitment to a hypocrisy that assumes God-like precedence over a child’s suffering and survival.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Reading The Future

Have you often fantasized about reading a book but were put off by their bookiness? Have you always yearned for that intimate reading experience but just couldn’t get over the booky hurdle of bookiness that most books exude? Well Amazon has come up with just the solution for YOU.

“At half the thickness of Amazon's first e-book reader, the Amazon Kindle 2 ($359) is pretty inviting. It's a, sleek, curved tablet that you can easily hold in your hands.”

My God! This revolutionary invention is so book-like that you can actually easily hold it in your hands! Like a book!

“The first-generation Kindle weighed 10.3 ounces and offered a paperlike E-Ink display that keeps eyestrain at bay.”

And it has a paper-like quality! Wow! Just like books!

“The first Kindle was readable in sunlight…”

Hallelujah! Like books!

“… it also had long battery life…”

Brilliant! Who doesn’t hate it when you get to a good bit and your book stops working?

“… and allows you to highlight passages at will.”

What, like a pen, on paper? AT WILL? It’s a miracle I tell you!

“The Kindle 2 retains all of those capabilities, in a slimmer form. In my tests with the device, it felt easier to hold, especially one-handed.”

My God AGAIN! This new not-book is SO book-like it’s even like one of those books you can hold in one hand. Like a paperback. A paperback BOOK? Brilliant!

“And the slim form made it easier to pack alongside my ultraportable laptop and other devices in my gear bag.”

It IS like a paperback book! Brilliant. It’s SO paperback book-like you can put it in bags! Genius! And the pièce de résistance of this God-like-genius invention? Drum roll… PERLEEZE!

“The Kindle 2 turns pages 20 percent faster than the original Kindle does. The faster refresh allows you to navigate the screen in real time, at least.”

It… turns… pages… as… fast… as… a… REAL BOOK! Genius!

I had a quick scan of the Amazon reviews but couldn’t get past the first amazed customer's review:

“I've had the Kindle 2 in my hands for almost a day and have carried it on one commute.”

Monday, June 08, 2009

Cat Straw™

So, why is it that cats can’t pour water down their throats?

Other than not possessing opposable thumbs and having access to small cups, surely if they just lowered their heads into a bowl of water far enough so their bottom jaw is fully immersed in the water, then all they’d then need to do is open their mouth and suck and they’d quench their thirst a lot quicker than THE HALF A FUCKING HOUR IT TAKES MY CAT AT SIX O’CLOCK EVERY MORNING TO NOISILY SLURP WHAT MUST AMOUNT TO NO MORE THAN A THIMBLE FULL.

I don’t see it being that intellectually challenging. It’s how my tortoise drinks, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, he just lowers his little head into the bird bath and sucks away, yet my tortoise can’t operate the cat flap or quietly open the bathroom door to unravel an entire toilet roll, or stealthily stalk squirrels through the branches of a tree, and he certainly doesn’t come bounding down the garden having recognized that I’ve just called out his name (not for want of trying on my part), so what is it that’s stopping my more-intelligent-than-a-tortoise cat from taking a few silent gulps of water in the morning just like my tortoise does?

Is it simply that cats don’t like getting their chins wet? I know most domestic cats generally don’t like getting wet, so maybe that’s it - they’d rather spend half an hour dipping their tongue in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out (see?) of a bowl of water than risk the horror of getting a damp chin. But I wonder. Can cats suck? Is it because cats can’t suck that they don’t suck, or is it because cats are so blissfully unaware that sucking even exists that they have no concept of the suck?

They don’t smoke. They don’t drink milkshakes. They’ve certainly never needed to siphon petrol or remove snake venom from a bite wound. So maybe it’s just down to the fact that because they’ve never had anything to suck, they've never had to evolve a sucking system (neither have tortoises, I hear you cry, but tortoises smoke. Constantly. Why do you think they’re so slow?) so it could be that sucking might be the answer to the cat drinking problem. I appreciate cats might not think they’ve got much of a problem with drinking, but, hey, our ancestors used to think drinking warm beer was normal. Helloooooooooo. Progress. Things change.

So, can cats suck if they're encouraged to do so? And if so, what about straws, can cats use straws? Has anyone even thought to ask them? The straw would certainly be the natural solution to any damp chin concerns, plus a lot of resources and money go into researching cat foods and if we establish cats can suck then there’s a whole other industry out there. Isotonic cat drinks for the active moggy. Diet drinks for the less active. It all comes down to the straw and whether cats can use them. Even rabbits can use straws and they’re hardly rocket scientists, they understand the principle behind the ‘suck a straw-sized tube and get a drink’ scenario - they suck on those upside down water bottles that look like small versions of cyclists’ water bottles, or even just small cyclists’ water bottles, and quench their thirst. My dear old rabbit, Miffy, would always have a glug on his water bottle to wash his fish and chips down. No problem for him, he understood the concept of suck. So why not my cat?

This could be the start of something big. Or at least something long, thin and straw-like.

The Cat Straw™. In shops now!

"When your cat wants more...

... use The Cat Straw™"

Wednesday, June 03, 2009