Monthly Archives: January 2011

Phone users code of conduct

BBC Radio 5 Live recently published a “moviegoers code of conduct” where Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode collected listener comments on what they consider to be offensive behaviour when watching a film at the cinema – they reduced it to a top 10 list of what you should and shouldn’t do at the cinema.

I keep thinking of this etiquette list when out and about in Brazil, listening to people using their mobile phones in PTT mode. Push to talk isn’t common in the UK – I guess because most people on contracts now have almost-unlimited voice minutes and texts so there is no need to use a low-cost walkie-talkie style service.

But it’s really popular here.

If you ever sat and listened to someone using their mobile phone in a restaurant and thought to yourself, that’s a bit rude to fellow diners, then imagine if the same person was using their phone with the loudspeaker on so you can hear both sides of the conversation, interspersed with annoying bleeps as the broadcast function is transferred from one person to the other. Just like someone using a walkie talkie radio…

That’s what it’s like all over the place here. On the beach, in bars, in restaurants… people use their PTT phones as if it was a normal phone, so the rest of us have to hear bleeps and conversations going on without even asking to be included in them…

Bring back the time when people using mobiles alone was considered poor etiquette…
Blue Screen of Death

Common Sense in Egypt

In ‘Common Sense’ his (anonymously published) pamphlet on the creation of government and society, Thomas Paine described how a ramshackle group of people might form a government:

“Some convenient tree will afford them a State-House, under the branches of which, the whole colony may assemble to deliberate on public matters. It is more than probable that their first laws will have the title only of Regulations, and be enforced by no other penalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man, by natural right will have a seat.”

Paine published this in 1776, in the midst of the American revolution. It aimed to remind the American people of the kind of government they should be creating – representative and democratic – with every voice heard. An organisation that remembers it is representative of the people, and not that the people are subjagated by it.

Governments today are often not like this. Politicians are power-hungry and fly around the world in private jets, enjoy limousines to ferry them from one meeting to the next, and far from representing the people of their country, they often become an untouchable elite answerable only to themselves.

Not every politician is like this. It still pleases me to see political representatives in ‘normal’ situations, such as on the bus or underground. I met (until recently shadow chancellor) Alan Johnson on the tube once and he explained to me that it is the best way to get around London. This is the kind of pragmatic ‘normal’ behaviour that keeps elected officials closer to the people they are supposed to represent.

But away from England and America, there are far more despotic regimes where leaders suck wealth from their people and enjoy a life most can only dream of. Often the people on the streets don’t even get a real chance to elect or choose those leaders, and if they do get an election, it’s rigged anyway.

Revolution has been the historic answer, sweeping away a corrupt regime and introducing a fairer society. However revolution is hard to control and even harder to create – it doesn’t just happen because people are fed up.

But look at what is now happening in north Africa. The people of Tunisia rose up and removed their corrupt government. It’s overstating the power of the Internet to suggest that this was a social media revolution, but the fact is that 1 in 5 Tunisians is on Facebook – and this was a major contributory factor in spreading the news of the initial suicide that sparked the protests.

The Tunisian leaders failed to block the Internet in time. Egypt has seen protests all week now and the protestors have used the Internet (#j25) to promote the idea of a mass protest by the entire nation today after prayers. The police chiefs have already warned the government that if the protesting crowds swell to anything greater than 70,000 people then the police will be overwhelmed and can offer the government no protection.

Naturally, the government has banned access to the Internet.

Whatever happens today in Egypt, revolution or not, it will be reported on and spread throughout the world. A light will spark in the mind of every person dissatisfied with the way their leaders fail to represent the people – especially those leaders who sit in power for decades, only to hand the riches of office to their own children. Since when could a government leader believe that they own the right to hand power to their child? It’s surprising just how many leaders still behave this way.

Not for much longer.

Julian Assange may have been vilified by the USA for his Wikileaks website, but what he showed the world is that any government – even one that proclaims to be democratic – needs to answer to the people who elected them.

And the Internet is now handing power, and freedom, back to the people.
Big Ben in front of the sun

In-ger-land

I was filling out the form I need to complete to register as an overseas voter and there is a section where I need a witness to my signature. But it can’t just be any old witness. It has to be another British person who does not live in Britain and is not related to me.

São Paulo is a city of 20 million people, but I don’t know a single British person here yet…

Perhaps if I take the form up to the Bristol Tavern pub down the road from where I live, there might just be an ex-pat who can help?
Sex Pistols - Brixton Academy

My wedding, on the BBC…

BBC Technology Editor, Rory Cellan-Jones, is launching his new series on Radio 4 today. Titled ‘The Secret History of Social Networking’ it is a three-part documentary exploring the origins of social networking, going back to the 1970s.

The programme starts with my wedding to Angelica, and there is a trailer film on the BBC website today promoting the radio show and featuring several minutes of film from our wedding day!

Click here to watch the film

Recession in the UK

The UK economic data for Q4 2010 was staggeringly bad. The economy contracted by 0.5% when economists had predicted growth of around 0.5%. If the next set of UK numbers look like this then the country will be officially back in recession – the dreaded ‘double-dip’ where growth is not strong enough to sustain recovery from the last recession.

The economic downturn at the end of the past decade was the worst I have known in my life. In 2008, I lost all of my clients and I was also in the middle of getting divorced – so I was paying for two houses in London. Not the ideal time to be increasing costs and reducing income! Still, I rode that out with a reduction in savings, I found new clients, and now I have moved to Brazil where the economy is growing.

But when I look back at the UK now, I can see so many more real problems that I could never see before, not least in terms of economic stagnation. I don’t mean in the terms an economist would use, I just mean in human terms.

Food prices are going up, it’s harder to borrow money for major purchases such as a house, fuel costs are increasing… but worst of all, I know of at least four friends who are searching for a job. Highly skilled, qualified, experienced, and able people out there searching for work. I’ve never seen this before even back in the hard times of the early 90s or the dot com crash a decade ago.

If the people in London with degrees and experience are getting turfed out into the gutter, then what’s happening to less affluent parts of the UK – especially where they depend heavily on the public sector for work? Wait and see, because the public sector job cuts are only just beginning…
Who Moved My Job?

London in films – why don’t they get it right?

I went to see the new Clint Eastwood movie ‘Hereafter’ at the weekend. I knew nothing about the film before seeing it, I was just in one of those ‘why not catch a movie’ moods and was passing the cinema… I saw that Clint had directed it, so that was enough.

And it was OK, quite an enjoyable film. Matt Damon is getting better as he gets older and Clint is having something of a renaissance in his twilight years. Of course, being about the afterlife you need to suspend disbelief and assume that there really is a place you go when you die that is all bright lights and people floating around in eternal happiness… but apart from the ‘Ghost’-like plot devices, it all works quite well.

But, being a Londoner I was appalled by some glaring issues with the film. And this is just from sitting there watching it, not scouring the web for bloopers.

1. Since when did Virgin Atlantic fly direct from Thailand to France?

2. The London Book Fair at Alexandra Palace? It’s always been at Olympia, except for the past few years where it has been at Earl’s Court, but never at Ally Pally.

3. Liverpool Street Station is featured in the film, but re-badged as “Charing Cross Station” – why?

The last time I noticed so many misrepresentations of London in a film was in ’28 Days Later’ where the geography of London was all over the place and it’s annoying for locals when surely the filmmaker doesn’t need to do it? Or am I being naive and ignoring the need to scrape together product placement dollars wherever they can be found?
Phoenix Cinema

Sexism in football – and the Pope is a Catholic?

Football is a sport dominated by men and so the pervasive culture of the game is male-oriented. It is usually just sexist, but at worst, just plain misogynistic. So it’s no surprise to hear the off-air comments by Sky pundits Richard Keys and Andy Gray where they complain about a female assistant referee officiating a game.

It might be true that sexism is still part of football culture, but that doesn’t make it acceptable to judge professionals on the basis of gender alone. As many other pundits have found, comments about race lead to certain sacking – who knows if Sky will judge these comments as strongly?

Can someone tell me the difference?

They deserve to be fired just for perpetuating these stereotypically macho views in the public domain – even if they did not expect their comments to be broadcast.

If those who lead the game can’t even deal with sexism then how will they ever deal with the endless racism and homophobia that continues to blight the game. Come on Sky, give them the boot. This is the 21st Century, we don’t need these ‘Gene Hunt’-era “experts” on TV…

——

Richard Keys: Well, somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.

Andy Gray: Yeah, I know. Can you believe that? Female linesman. Forget what I said – they probably don’t know the offside rule.

RK: Course they don’t.

AG: Why is there a female linesman? Somebody’s fucked up big.

RK: I can guarantee you there’ll be a big one today. Kenny [Dalglish, Liverpool’s manager] will go potty. This is not the first time. Didn’t we have one before?

AG: Yeah.

RK: Wendy Toms.

AG: Wendy Toms, something like that. She was fucking hopeless as well.

RK: [exasperated groan]

AG: [inaudible]

RK: No, no, it’s got to be done, it’s good. The game’s gone mad. See charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yeah. Do me a favour, love.
Brazil v Sweden, Emirates Stadium