All entries for February 2006

February 18, 2006

Factoids gleaned from the interweb

A.K.A. Things i learnt today whilst not watching Final Destination on TV…

  • 14 members of the new Palestininan parliament had to be sworn in via videolink… because they're in jail.
  • It looks unlikely the New Orleans levee will be repaired in time for the next hurricane season, and even if it is the levees aren't being constructed properly – according to prominent engineers.
  • We're not the only ones struggling to pay council tax – in the US, rising house values mean higher property tax, so people are constantly trying to downsize.
  • President Bush has at last realised the African Union isn't managing to keep the peace in Darfur and is calling for a doubling of the international peacekeeping force.
  • VW's announcement that 20,000 jobs will go and that the remaining workers will have to work longer – for no extra pay – made their share price shoot up 15%.
  • London accounts for 18% of Britain's GDP.
  • eBay has 181,000,000 registered users.

Muhammed Cartoon Protest

Why is there another (supposedly bigger) protest in London today against the cartoons that were printed in foreign newspapers?

While I have some – conditional – sympathy for their cause, there was one last weekend, and hasn't the story passed now?


February 16, 2006

Freedom of Speech for Media Societies

From Kat Stark's Presidential Manifesto, 2005:

University is a place where students should be free to express their beliefs and should be talking about difficult issues. I will be actively encouraging students to express their own beliefs and hear others (sic) beliefs with respect and sensitivity

Well said.

But in reality, has Kat implemented this? Or did she reject a policy to prevent the Boar from commenting on referenda? Or did she change the current Union policies which state that – effectively – the media societies can't broadcast or print opinions about referendums or elections, for fear that 'debate' might bias the elections?

Sadly not.

This is why I've submitted a referendum (which is likely to get 'hacked' to pieces tomorrow) which would allow media societies to speak freely about such referenda and elections – so long as coverage of each society is, in the whole, unbiased.

Unlike the Union's current rules, there is some thinking behind this. Notably, OFCOM's regulations, which state exactly this method of ensuring bias doesn't occur. And considering RaW is capable of adhering to OFCOM's regulations about everything else, why not this? And why just RaW? Why can't WTV and the Boar have a proper debate rather than have to tip-toe around while the Union North people have a feeble debate which consists solely of "official" arguments?

My feeling from Union North is that they're against this motion. But why? Surely a healthy democracy requires debate about the issues (as Kat herself advocates above), not just two 'official arguments' which leave no room for a middle ground.

On the abortion issue, for instance, wasn't there a middle-ground somewhere out there? Did it get expressed during the last referenda period? No. Because that would break the rules.

And I'm not advocating RaW or the Boar taking a 'view' – they'd simply be allowed to facilitate arguments between people with differing opinions. They'd still have to be 'unbiased' as a whole.

For instance, you couldn't say in the Boar: "Don't Vote Duggan". You'd have to have someone say why you should vote for him, and someone say – equally forcefully – why you shouldn't. Just like in the 'real' world.

And if RaW, WTV and the Boar slip up, they should be punished. Just like now. But give them a chance, rather than strangling their coverage of important issues. You never know, it might just improve participation and turnout. Assuming that's what Union North wants.

Kat Stark's Presidential Campaign Slogan, 2005:

No Empty Promises

I trust Kat'll be voting in favour of the motion then.


February 12, 2006

Breaking News

AP: US Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shoots a 78-year-old man

You just can't make them up…


February 11, 2006

Hilarity…

Firstly, no I don't have some gay obsession with Brokeback Mountain. This is just pure genius…

Movie Trailer

Still laughing…


Mind the splash…

In today's Guardian:

Imagine you are an investor who has bought financial assets in a country that's running a trade deficit of 5.8% of its national output. Imagine, also, that the size of that deficit grew by 17.5% last year…The country we are talking about is not Mexico or Thailand but the United States, which yesterday announced a record trade deficit of $726bn (£415bn) for 2005…Clearly, trade deficits of 6% of GDP are unsustainable. Clearly, the dollar has to fall. Simple game theory suggests that there is a real advantage in being the first central bank to move.

So the American economy looks set to do a Peter Kay-esque running bomb and surely we're all going to get soaked?

Well, yes and no. Stock markets will take a big hit if economies – especially Asian ones – start selling dollars. But in reality, this is surely just going to be a blip. Won't there be a certain amount of relief in the City and other institutions if the inevitable finally happens and the dollar finally comes down to a more sustainable position? Won't it reel in President Bush's unrealistic low-tax, high-spend philosophy? Won't investors realise that not a huge amount of our trade takes place with the US, and that as long as we have strong trading links with the EU, everything will be alright? And won't it be seen as a boost to our economy, as investment here might suddently appear more attractive?

Or am I being a hopeless optimist?


February 10, 2006

Thought for the Day…

Politicians dislike any idea that isn't their own.

Revolutionary, I know.


February 08, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Movie image
Title:
Brokeback Mountain
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

Considering the hype and award nominations attached to this film, I have to say I was somewhat disappointed.

The performances by the four lead characters are very good, but they're performing their lines whilst running on a very slow treadmill. The plot almost tries not to conform to the Hollywood stereotype, and while this is normally a good thing, Brokeback Mountain struggles because of it.

A critical flaw in the film is that Jack and Ennis' sexual desire is explained clearly on camera, but their obvious love is never explained in the same way. This leaves a cavernous hole in the emotional intensity of the film, as the emotions played out on screen are based on love, not on the sex that Ang Lee prefers to allude to through various (often sheep-related) imagery.

The ending for me was a big disappointment, although I was slightly relieved that it was the end, because the film had gone on too long. Personally I think by ending primarily on Ennis' daughter's journey, the significance of Ennis and Jack's relationship was downplayed. Yes, having your daughter get married is an important moment in your life, but given the relative lack of importance attached to Ennis' children throughout the film, it felt a strange note to end on.

The film is worth seeing, and 3 out of 5 stars is probably being slightly unfair. The first half of the film is beautifully-shot and acted. But the second half of the film doesn't deliver the emotions that you expect it to.

And considering past winners of the Best Picture award at the Oscars, I can't help feeling Brokeback Mountain's inevitable win is unjust.


February 07, 2006

Why I Blog

From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.

George Orwell

I think George Orwell and I have a lot in common.

Almost certainly not in terms of talent, and not always in terms of beliefs. But when it comes to working out what the hell to do with my life, Orwell's words make a lot of sense.

I'm still torn between going into broadcast and print journalism. Orwell did both, and while I'm definately going to train in broadcast, I can still see writing looming over me. My only consolation is that broadcast journalism still involves writing, albeit you then have to read those words out.

I definately agree with at least half of Orwell's reasons for writing. "Sheer egoism" is probably something that I can relate to – I wouldn't bother writing this blog entry if I didn't think someone was going to read it. I'm not sure about "aesthetic enthusiasm" – it's probably something I would like to be interested in, but I can't bring myself to 'flaff about' with the order of words, I prefer to just let them flow, which is why I rarely proof-read anything I write.

Again, I wouldn't be blogging if there wasn't an element of "historical impulse" inside me. Someone reading this tomorrow will still be reading something slightly historical, and I have to admit I like the idea of reading this again once I retire, looking back at the (probably) naive and idealistic views I held as a 21-year old.

And finally, I'm virtually obsessed with writing for a "political purpose". As Orwell said, everything containing a viewpoint is political in some way, and I would say that attempting to write without a political viewpoint, no matter how subtle, is both futile and worthless.

I don't expect to emulate Orwell himself, but I'll be happy if the majority of my writing isn't "lifeless…betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally."

All I need to do now is go and live rough in Paris for a bit.


February 05, 2006

The Big Decision – 8 hours of coverage, 100 hours of work!

Phew! Well that was a restless night's sleep. Dealing with the adrenaline and the Haribo-induced high meant coming down from RaW's coverage of the Big Decision took a while!

Although yesterday began at about 10am, the real work started about three weeks ago, as we began planning and scripting the features we had planned. These included our game show Hackety Hack, interviews with almost every candidate, a Union Review of the Year, a guide to Union Democracy, The Student Union Awards, The Big Decision Radio Play ("RaW News: In-shite"), and of course interviews with the winners of every Sabbatical position!

Our huge production team were involved with every stage of the process – the Radio Play alone took probably 30 man/woman-hours, and starred many of RaW's biggest plonkers.

The Union Review of the Year was a 'big success', and someone from BBC Radio 3 e-mailed the studio to say it was better than many packages he's heard on network radio, which was an enormous complement to Emily, who did all the hard work.

And Martin did a great package on Union Democracy, explaining the almost-unexplainable in a simple, sensible manner that eludes most Union hacks!

So that's most of the pre-recorded material accounted for. But the most stressful part was filling the other 7 hours of live material that we had planned!

It was supposed to include a Freshers' Panel broadcasting live in a Rootes kitchen, but this ended up being scrapped when our team were kicked out by a somewhat-anal Senior Warden or somebody. But it may have been a blessing – it was simpler just to broadcast the same material from Cholo, using our fantastic new radio microphone which is going to make RaW's outside broadcasts sound brilliant for years to come. Just so long as we don't loan it to TSG!

But the Rootes OB wasn't the only problem we had all evening! The Union North computer network went down, meaning no internet, but more importantly, no printers! Just as we wanted to start printing scripts, we realised we had a major problems. Luckily our techies pulled through, and managed to bodge something together. We eventually had enough scripts about 3 hours into the show!

One of the evening's great triumphs was undoubtedly Jack and Ed, hosting the results in the Marketplace. Their decision to award 'prizes' to all of the Sabbatical winners was inspired, and resulted in not just raised eyebrows but a hell of a lot of laughs up in the studio.

The programme certainly wouldn't have worked if it wasn't for the amazing people behind-the-scenes. Our technical team worked wonders, not only in getting us four different feeds into the studio, but also fixing all the disasters that we created throughout the evening!

Also, Laura, Fran and Sarah did an amazing job as runners. Getting guests into the studio was a mammoth feat, not aided by some over-zealous Union Security stooges who didn't realise we were trying to do a job as well. To be fair, they were probably following orders from up on high, but it suggests the left foot has no idea where the right foot is in the Union.

Off-microphone, but still deserving of praise, are people such as Elections Group, who did a brilliant job this year and Chris Carter who kept the crowd happy and accommodated Jack and Ed.

And of course everyone on-microphone did an amazing job, helping form a Big Decision show which is probably the best we've done in ages. It was great to see so many new RaW members getting involved as well, and I'd echo what Adam said: don't even think about a career in the media without having been involved in RaW, WTV or the Boar first.

Hope everyone who listened enjoyed it, and those who didn't can listen to bits of it online later this week!

But what on earth do we do now the Big D's finished! Surely not Uni work!!!


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