Tag Archives: BBC

Brazil: I’ll do it tomorrow if that’s OK?

Business Daily on the BBC World Service today was focused on the possible decision by FIFA to cancel the World Cup games in Curitiba because the stadium is not ready. The BBC is being cautious and waiting for the actual announcement from FIFA, but ESPN has already started reporting that FIFA has taken this decision and Curitiba is officially out of the World Cup.

Of course this would be a disaster for Curitiba. It’s a fantastic city that is clean, safe, and has buses that people actually use. A complete contrast from the edginess of São Paulo or the favelas dotted all over Rio. It’s the last place that you might expect to fail when Brazil has also been building new stadiums in places like Manaus and Cuiabá.

But what I found irksome when listening to the BBC coverage was the vox pops they used when characterising Brazil. There was a university professor who talked about the culture in Brazil that everything can be done tomorrow. There was the miserable commuter who spends hours travelling to and from work each day – on a good day. There was the small business owner who said how terribly difficult it is to do business in Brazil.

The coverage wasn’t balanced or fair. I have complained a fair few times about the challenges of living in Brazil, notably things like the bureaucracy associated with buying an insurance policy or registering a car. Simple transactions that should really be easier, but on balance I actually like it here. It sounds irritating to hear the BBC doing a cultural hatchet job on how all Brazilians are lazy, feckless, and would rather not do anything today because there is always tomorrow.

I run a business in Brazil. If a contractor delivers anything late then I don’t pay them. If they let me down more than once I will never work with them again. If they don’t deliver a quality service then I negotiate a new price. I haven’t had very many problems at all with this idea that nothing ever gets delivered on time – I had far more trouble when I ran a business back in the UK.

Small businesses in Brazil benefit from a simple tax structure. You just pay tax on the revenue coming into your company. No need for complex offsets or depreciation, just pay a fixed percentage on your revenue. Imagine if Starbucks was doing that in the UK, rather than transferring profit to Switzerland therefore reducing the local profit to nothing and therefore paying little or no corporation tax.

And small business owners get paid on time in Brazil. When I send an invoice to a client I tell my bank that I have sent it and who it has gone to AND when they are going to pay. If the company doesn’t pay then my bank will chase the company – like my own debt collection service. Imagine if small companies in the UK could rely on their bank to help them this way? Why don’t they do it?

There is a very vibrant start-up culture in Brazil and loads of technological innovation taking place in the big corporates and the tiny micro-businesses. State governments are handing out cash to entrepreneurs all over the country without demanding equity in return because they are actively trying to stimulate the start-up culture and the benefits that one big success can bring to a region.

My own wife is a part of this scene. She is travelling all over Brazil meeting traditional artisans and joining them together into a collective called Gift Brazil, so they can harness the power of social media tools like Facebook to promote their traditional art and culture. Can you imagine the market a traditional artist in the middle of the Amazon might usually have for their work? Just the odd tourist wandering past perhaps… now they can be seen by the entire world.

I know that balance doesn’t make for a great story. It’s easier to get clicks on a story if you tell a miserable story, rather than try spreading the good news, but in the year of the FIFA World Cup Brazil is getting showered in bad news. Everything is late, the people don’t want it, it will all be a disaster…

Well there are some great interesting projects taking place in Brazil that are redefining how people work, people are demanding and starting to get more political transparency, and some of us are looking forward to the World Cup – even though I don’t have a single ticket for any of the matches!

Toucan eye

 

Photo by Doug Wheller licensed under Creative Commons

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A history of micros – would it sell?

About five years ago I pitched an idea for a book to a publisher. It was to be a fun lively history of how microcomputing changed the world. I got rejected – they told me there was no way a history book about microcomputers would sell.

At the time I just slunk away, tail between my legs, assuming that they were correct, but since then I’ve published several books without the need for a publisher and I figure that maybe it’s time to explore the idea again. I don’t really think that a boring history full of footnotes and technical details would work – though maybe someone should write that before we all get too old, but I wanted to do something more personality-led – talking to the people who created and used these devices.

Take a look at some of these videos:

Jeff Minter’s Attack of the Mutant Camels on the C64

Manic Miner on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Crazy Kong on the Sinclair ZX81

Cuthbert in the Jungle on the Dragon 32

Elite on the BBC Micro

Rob Hubbard’s music using the C64 SID chip

The kids who played all these games in the early 1980s are all probably about 40 now. They might have learned how to code games and ended up in the IT industry – that’s what happened to me. Or they might just have enjoyed the games.

What’s important about this era is that it’s the first ever generation that would have been using computers at school because the micro made it possible to start bringing computers into school – we were the first to get real lessons in IT.

Now this generation is old enough to be in senior positions, running their own companies, maybe inspired by some of the games they played or the BASIC they learned on their home micro.

I think it would be interesting to talk to the people who created these computers, these games, the music, and to learn some of the stories around how they were launched AND to find some people who were influenced by this era of technology. There must be countless companies or careers that were launched because of these little plastic 8-bit boxes.

So what do you think – something worth pursuing in 2014?

How many podcasts do you listen to?

I was featured in a podcast this week. It’s always nice to be interviewed and featured somewhere, but even nicer when it’s in a podcast that I actually listen to – and I listen to quite a lot of podcasts. This one was the Live in Brazil podcast hosted by Kevin Porter.

In fact, I was thinking about just how many podcasts I do listen to regularly so I thought it might be interesting to list them all. I do clear out my podcast list when shows are no longer updated so this is pretty much a comprehensive list of the ones I regularly listen to – not just everything I found on my iPod.

Most of the content is from the BBC. That’s really because I don’t know of anywhere that does speech and informative radio as well as the BBC. A lot of this content was originally on the radio and then published as a podcast. Personally I tend to only listen to audio as podcasts now, I don’t really listen to any radio in real-time. And music radio – well for that there is Spotify…

When I write all the podcasts as a list it looks fairly long, but I guess there are people who leave the radio on all day and listen to more programmes than I do. I’m quite selective in what I listen to and I do have specific times when I will listen – walking my dog, out running on the street, in the gym, and work that doesn’t need a lot of concentration (checking emails, Facebook etc…) Obviously I can’t write something while also listening to the news on my iPod.

And one other thing, because I listen on the iPod I can play everything at double speed. That doesn’t work well for music, but for speech radio it means you can get an hour of news in 30 minutes. I have done this so often (and been mocked on the BBC Click programme for it) that when I listen to familiar presenters at normal speed they sound strange!

Do you listen to more? Is this a lot of podcasts to regularly be following?

    • Best of Today; BBC Radio 4 Today programme
    • The Bottom Line; BBC business interviews with Evan Davies
    • Broadcasting House; BBC Sunday news magazine
    • Business Daily; BBC World daily business news
    • Click; BBC technology magazine
    • Crossing Continents; BBC travel and society magazine
    • Desert Island Discs; BBC classic – what music to take to a desert island
    • Discovery; BBC science documentaries
    • Documentaries; documentaries from all across the BBC
    • Drama of the Week; new BBC feature – a weekly radio drama
    • Feedback; forum for radio listener feedback
    • Fighting Talk; BBC sports “quiz” and chat
    • File on 4; In-depth BBC investigative reporting
    • The Film Programme; Weekly film reviews
    • Folk with Mark Radcliffe; Weekly folk music show
    • Football Weekly; weekly football summary
    • Forum – A World of Ideas; Weekly debate about philosophy and ideas
    • From our own correspondent; news reports from foreign correspondents all over the world
    • Front Row Daily; daily arts show
    • Global News; daily summary of global news
    • Great Lives; weekly biography of a “great” person
    • The Guardian Books Podcast; books review
    • The Guardian Film Show; weekly film reviews
    • In Our Time; weekly analysis of history and ideas
    • Listen To Lucy; Lucy Kellaway’s FT column
    • The Live in Brazil Podcast; Live in Brazil with Kevin Porter
    • The Long View; Exploring how the past influences the present
    • Making History; BBC history magazine
    • Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews; The best weekly film review show online anywhere… a must-listen
    • Mastertapes; musicians discussing their back catalogue
    • Media Show; weekly media review by the BBC
    • Media Talk; weekly media review by The Guardian
    • Men’s Hour; weekly magazine show
    • Money Box; financial issues
    • More or Less; maths and statistics
    • Music Weekly; Guardian weekly new music review
    • Newshour; daily news summary
    • On the Money; weekly financial analysis featuring CEOs
    • Outlook; real-life stories from the news
    • Outriders; Weekly tech news – Internet focused
    • The Penguin Podcast; Books from Penguin
    • Peter Day’s World of Business; Very good exploration of global business issues
    • Pienaar’s Politics; Excellent weekly summary of British politics
    • A Point of View; Short bursts of thought and philosophy
    • Politics Weekly; Guardian weekly political summary
    • Radio 2 Arts Show; a weekly arts summary
    • Radio 3 Essay; a short essay on the arts
    • The Report; a detailed investigative news report
    • Science Weekly; weekly science focus from the Guardian
    • Sportsweek; a weekly BBC show summarising sport
    • Tech Weekly; Guardian look at tech each week
    • Test match Special; cricket – when games are being played
    • Thanks for Giving a Damn; Excellent US-based musician interviews
    • Thinking Allowed; weekly sociology focus
    • Today in Parliament; what happened in the UK parliament
    • Wake up to Money; Daily financial news first thing in the morning
    • A Week of You and Yours; weekly consumer issues
    • Weekly Political Review; BBC weekly politics summary
    • The Why Factor; asking tough questions – why this or that?
    • Witness; short bursts of interviews with witnesses to great events
    • The World at One; news summary at 1300
    • The World Tonight; news summary at 2200

Enda Mulloy

OFAH fans – please help me with cockney bingo!

Only Fools and Horses fans, I need your help!

I’m a member of the Serra Negra English club here in São Paulo, Brazil. It’s a group of people who meet every two weeks to practice their English and all the membership fees for the club go into helping local charities.

In two weeks I am hosting the club at my house. I wanted to try something linked to the use of some more unusual English words, but to make it fun. So I thought I would try a bingo game with Only Fools and Horses. I’d issue some bingo cards featuring Cockney slang words, we all watch an episode of OFAH and people check off the words as they hear them – hopefully with a winner found before the end of the show.

It will be entirely Brazilian people playing this game, trying to improve their English and learning about some of the unusual Cockney slang used by Del Boy and Rodders. Hopefully it works as a fun way to show them that not everyone speaks English like the Prince of Wales…

What I need from you is a pointer to a particular episode that might work for this game. I need the following:

  • It must be one of the early half-hour shows so the game is not too long, so I expect it will feature Grandad.
  • It must be a fairly simple story setup – I need to brief everyone on what OFAH is all about as they will have never seen the show, so a more complex relationship-based story is probably out (though most of that came later in the show anyway).
  • It must feature a lot of slang I can use for the game.

So, OFAH fans, can you help me to set this up and help a whole group of people in Brazil better understand how to speak if they are ever in Peckham? Leave a comment here on the blog or tweet me on @markhillary – thanks!

The Reliant Regal Supervan used by Delboy and Rodney Trotter

Photo by David licensed under Creative Commons

Reclaim Ealing

When the Arab spring took place, earlier this year, it was because millions of ordinary people had finally grown tired of dictators plundering their national resource and ruling over their lives. It was an ideological uprising to create fairer societies across the Middle East and North Africa.

When the Greek people took to the streets this year, it was over a sense of outrage at the mismanagement of their national economy – the government forcing austerity measures on working people that resulted in enormous job losses and pay cuts for public workers.

When the Metropolitan police shot Mark Duggan dead last week without him being in a position to attack them with a firearm (all the facts are still to come out in the inquiry, but it appears he posed no threat), they made a grave error. It led to protests from the family and then the local community – ending up in the localised rioting in Tottenham.

There has not been any rioting in London for a long time. Sure, there were a lot of student protests recently – one resulting in a jail term for the son of a rock star – and some anti-war protests like the big march in 2003, but nothing like this. The nearest I can remember to this was the 1990 poll tax rioting and even that was concentrated around a single area rather than spreading across the whole of London, like we have seen this week.

It seems just something burst in the collective consciousness of the criminal underclass this week. Seeing the riots in Tottenham galvanised a sense of injustice – especially against the police – and soon riots were taking place all over the capital, though they were particularly nasty in Hackney, Croydon, and Ealing.

Being a resident of Ealing until recently, all I could do was sit here in São Paulo watching the BBC news live updates and following the discussion on Twitter. Watching Ealing go up in flames without being there to actively do something was a very strange – and emotional – experience.

Of course, there is not much I could personally have done if I was there – what does anyone do if thugs are rampaging down the street setting cars on fire? But, I could see people I know from the local community – including many councillors and the council leader – getting messages online, warning of trouble, calling the fire brigade… actively helping their neighbours.

The tragic thing about this violence is that it has no objective, it’s just the violent outrage of frustration. If these kids really wanted to change the way companies like McDonald’s operate then getting the staff into a union or campaigning for fair wages and conditions would lead to a better outcome for everyone – rather than just bashing in the window of every branch they see.

And by looting, any sense of outrage or protest has been destroyed. London has been taken over by thugs who don’t even have a political message. Some are claiming it’s because of youth club cuts and youth unemployment. Nonsense – it’s just the criminal destruction of property by those who don’t even understand what they want or why.

At least the class warriors of the left, who used to cause trouble for business owners, had some form of objective – even if it was as simply stated as ‘smashing capitalism’ (even though the smashers were often educated property-owners).

The threat of Irish nationalist terrorism that only ceased recently, and also caused chaos in Ealing in the past decade, was also more understandable. There was a political debate to be had, even if it was always impossible to debate issues when one side used bombs.

But these riots are meaningless. They have no objective or planned outcome. And perhaps this is the most dangerous thing of all for a government that is now implementing possibly the largest ever cut-back in public sector jobs. If the disaffected youth think they have it bad right now, then just wait for another year… our trading partners in Europe are struggling and hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs are about to vanish.

I am visiting Ealing soon – later this month. And I had arranged a large local community event that will be on September 1st. I hope many more local residents come along to it now than were going to before these terrible riots – there will be many of those local councillors who were doing such a great job at the event, and at least one of the local MPs.

The tweetup may in some ways just be about having a pint and listening to some great live music, but since I started arranging these nights in early 2009, I met many local people and found new friends in my local community.

Ealing needs the local community right now and if social media is going to take some of the blame for helping rioters to focus on new targets then it should also be used to bring the community closer together.

Click here to register for the Ealing Tweetup…

Red Lion Ealing

Farewell Ealing Tweetup…

I wrote on my Computer Weekly blog here about the handover of the Ealing Tweetup to Hayden and all the other regulars at the event. It’s been a lot of fun putting these events together and seeing how the event has grown over time – it’s a shame to say goodbye, but I’m sure it’s going to continue growing because the event has a great amount of momentum behind it now.

When I could see the event getting bigger I thought about how it could easily be sponsored. Getting some free food and drinks would make it more attractive to the regulars and would help to start bringing in a bigger audience.

Of course, getting corporate sponsorship is a double-edged sword. It’s great to get free drinks, but it can be hard to keep something like a Tweetup as an informal gathering once companies start pumping money into the event. They want to know who is attending, what company attendees are from, what position they hold, and especially whether there are any people from the media in attendance – being close to the BBC and Sky in west London that’s been quite a common occurrence anyway.

But I don’t think we ever let the sponsorship take over the tweetup. People have been directed together, go and have a chat to so-and-so, but there has never been a formal name-list, name badges, list of attendees. It’s never been that kind of event and I hope it stays that way, even if it means buying a pint in future.

I’m really grateful to the companies that have sponsored the Tweetup – namely 1e and Xerox. They have all realised that to go ‘too corporate’ would ruin their involvement in the event and instead of people feeling genuine gratitude at their help in pulling together something interesting, there would have been a negative reaction at any over-controlling nature.

I hope future sponsors of this, and similar events, can also see the value in getting positive mentions online and building relationships with the blogging community. Good luck for the future tweetups in Ealing!

Introducing the Ealing Tweetup

Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins

Mark Kermode is the film reviewer on BBC Radio 5. His show goes out every Friday afternoon on the radio and is also available as a podcast on iTunes – it has become one of the most popular British podcasts on iTunes. Each week, Kermode runs through the new movies of the week and exchanges a considerable amount of banter with co-host Simon Mayo.

Some time back the film ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief’ was released and Kermode criticised it as nothing more than an American Harry Potter – a kind of colour-by-numbers movie about kids at a boarding school where they learn about magic.

His review suggested that any filmmaker could produce a film about kids learning magic and with the support of the Harry Potter fan base, it would almost certainly be a success. He suggested the name ‘Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins’ during the review as a typical name that could be used.

And so an Australian filmmaker went off and made a film using that name. It has just been released and contains a number of jokes referencing the Kermode show. So regular listeners to the show will find references to Jason Isaacs, David Morrissey, Werner Herzog, and all the favourite characters that seem to pop up week after week on the film show.

I’m going to download and watch it soon. Given that the budget was only something like A$5,000, I don’t expect to be dazzled, but to put a full-length feature movie together based only on a BBC film review is an impressive (or mad) achievement so it deserves some support.

And if I have not already said it, “Hello Jason Isaacs.”
Phoenix Cinema