Unfortunately I won’t be around for practice, but the F1 Fanatic liveblog is here nevertheless.
Archive: 2008 October
The Scotweb2 event is tomorrow at Edinburgh University’s Holyrood Campus. I think all of the tickets have been hoovered up now. But if any readers of this blog are going along, let me know and we can have a chat.
Here is the agenda:
1000 Introduction – Alex Stobart
1015 Presentations by Simon Dickson, Puffbox and James Munro, Patient Opinion
1. Stewart Kirkpatrick – W00tonomy – Content
2. Alex Stobart – Web 2 engagement and networks in Scotland
3. Simon Dickson – Using WordPress
1330 Presentations by Iain Henderson, mydex and Derek Hemphill, BT plc
1. Mark Ballard – Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations – web 2 and civic society
2. James Munro – Better Public Services ; how can web 2 make a difference
3. Derek Hemphill – Web 2 corporate applications
1530 Tea and close
I believe the venue has wifi so I might well attempt to blog or (more likely) tweet from the event.
The top story on the BBC News website is currently this on the furore surrounding Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross as Gordon Brown wades his sorry way in. I am sorry, but I really do struggle to believe that this is the most important story around at the moment.
In fact, once you put the pieces together, the whole thing looks as though the BBC has been completely stitched up. The phone calls may have been ill-advised, all the more so due to the fact that it was pre-recorded and yet was still broadcast.
But there are too many things about this that just don’t add up for me. I haven’t heard the clip, but having read the transcript it seems very much as though Jonathan Ross was easily the more offensive of the pair. So why is most of the criticism going the way of Russell Brand?
Then there is the time line of events. The story only entered the news agenda a full week and a half after the phone calls were made, and one whole week after they were broadcast. For something supposedly so shocking, people sure took a long time to realise it.
Alarm bells should automatically be ringing when you see that the paper that has stoked up this little fire is the contemptible Mail on Sunday. This has all the hallmarks of a despicable tabloid rag using any excuse to lay into the BBC.
Last Wednesday the Mail on Sunday phoned up Andrew Sachs’s agent, Meg Pool, for a comment. That was the first she — and, incidentally, Andrew Sachs himself — had ever heard of the phone calls. But, probably sniffing the opportunity to get lots of publicity, she began to kick up a fuss.
All the while, the amount of complaints the BBC had received by this time was a grand total of… two. And they were about Jonathan Ross’s swearing, not the nature of the phone calls. Post-Mail on Sunday foot-stomping, the figure stands at 10,000 and rising. It looks to me as though this story is all about the public’s love of a good old bandwagon.
And what does Andrew Sachs say? “[T]he producer called me on my mobile to ask whether they could play the recording in question out.” So the BBC sought permission before broadcasting it. And: “I think Jonathan [Ross] is in enough trouble as it is. I don’t want to add to that.”
That is how it should be. Of course Andrew Sachs should get an apology from both Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. It looks like he has got it (or in the case of Brand, will get it). Beyond that, the rest of this story stinks of a tabloid rag spying the opportunity to criticise the BBC for the most tenuous reason.
Update: I see that Will Patterson agrees with me.
The premise of Just a Souvenir is most intriguing. “This album started as a daydream about watching a crazy, beautiful rock band play an ultra-gig,” says Tom Jenkinson on his website. He goes on to describe the mad japes that the band got up to in his daydream, setting out a vision of an eccentric, futuristic, science fiction-inspired rock band. Squarepusher then saw it as his duty to recreate his daydream in album form.
I can’t help but wonder if the story is just a bit of an excuse, explaining the slightly tongue-in-cheek nature of some of the tracks. Just a few minutes into the album the listener is asked to “re-spect the coat… HANGER” by a cod 1980s vocoderised singer (a giant coathanger being the fantasy band’s main prop). This is not a criticism. I don’t like music to take itself far too seriously, and Squarepusher remains on the playful side of things for most of this album which makes it a much more pleasurable listen.
The premise of the album also gives Squarepusher maximum opportunity to pursue his crazy sonic experiments. Then there is the fact that the band is apparently supposed to be a prog rock band. This mixture — a focus on technology and quasi-prog stylings — makes Just a Souvenir sound like the sort of album most bands in the 1980s would have dreamt of making. It’s the music that Tomorrow’s World promised.
But perhaps the most unique-sounding tracks are the ones which don’t have the pomp of the prog rock approach. The sonic experimentation is most evident on tracks like ‘Open Society’, ‘Fluxgate’ which presumably depict the classical guitar player who can travel backwards in time, taking the surrounding sounds with him to create “imploded sonic pin cushions”.
Stylistically these tracks are similar to some tracks that Squarepusher has been doing for a few years, beginning with ‘Itti-Fack’ from the Square Window EP. These tracks are brief and sound as though the audio has been recorded in another dimension. I can’t think of anyone else who makes music that sounds like this. It’s almost as though Squarepusher has created a new genre which, for the time being, is specifically his domain.
Elsewhere, Squarepusher’s sonic palette has been expanded with the surprising inclusion of some all-out rock songs. Although Tom Jenkinson is well-known for being a highly accomplished bass guitar player, his playing is typically of the jazz fusion variety, or perhaps set to some of his madcap Amen break-fuelled drill and bass, IDM or suchlike. I suppose since now that IDM is deeply unfashionable, it is sensible of him to move away from that sort of thing.
But it is nonetheless surprising that he has gone so far down the rock route. While tracks like ‘Delta-V’ are by no means like conventional rock music, the almost metal-like style of these tracks undoubtedly moves Squarepusher into brand new territory. Incidentally, what an enjoyable listen ‘Delta-V’ is.
What strikes one listening to this album is just how much it does sound like a full band. It has long been known that Tom Jenkinson is a truly multi-talented fellow, being a particularly accomplished bass guitar player while also impressing on guitars and drums, all while mixing it with electronic music’s oligarchy at Warp Records.
For his past few albums, Squarepusher has been increasing the eclecticism of his output, beginning with the amazing Ultravisitor (still my favourite Squarepusher album) which gave us a full taste of all of his talents from drum and bass stormers to gentile Spanish guitar performances, mixing studio-based and live performances to create a truly unique, odd-sounding album that can’t help but leave you impressed.
But in Just a Souvenir the tone doesn’t jump around uncomfortably as it sometimes does in Ultravisitor. Now all of Tom Jenkinson’s many talents are performing to such a high level, gelling so well that you would never guess that it wasn’t actually a band. What an achievement.
I have long been an advocate of full RSS feeds for reasons outlined in this post.
I do, however, understand why most news outlets opt to keep partial feeds. News websites, unlike blogs, typically show you just the headlines and a short summary of each story on the front page — just like a partial RSS feed. Blogs, meanwhile, normally show the full post on the front page. They tend to have less content, so a full feed would be perfectly manageable.
So it is a surprise that The Guardian has announced that all of its RSS feeds will be full feeds from now on. According to the people at Google Reader, The Guardian is the first major newspaper in the world to do this, so hats off to them.
It’s great news for the end user. But I have to admit that I’m feeling quite queasy just thinking about the amount of bandwidth guardian.co.uk is going to go through from now on. It’s one thing for a little blog to publish full RSS feeds, but it’s quite another for a large media organisation to do it. It might tempt me to start subscribing to some of their blogs again though.
Ferrari is the only team to have participated continuously in Formula 1 since the first Formula 1 World Championship in 1950. For many, Ferrari is synonymous with Formula 1. Its loyal tifosi, the evocative rosso corsa and the instantly recognisable Prancing Horse logo come together to build a huge brand that cannot be rivalled, much to the chagrin of some other F1 teams. It has been argued by Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone themselves that the presence of Ferrari is vital to the health of Formula 1.
But today, Ferrari threatened to quit F1 if Max Mosley continues with his madcap plans to systematically dismantle the sport as we have all grown up to know it. Today the Scuderia issued a statement which contained a section that will have many fans nodding sagely:
Whilst reiterating its wholehearted commitment to a substantial and needed reduction in costs in Formula One, starting with propulsion, the Ferrari Board of Directors expressed strong concerns regarding plans to standardise engines as it felt that such a move would detract from the entire raison of a sport with which Ferrari has been involved continuously since 1950, a raison d’etre based principally on competition and technological development.
The Board of Directors expressed the opinion that should these key elements be diminished, it would have to re-evaluate, with its partners the viability of continuing its presence in the sport.
This came in the same day that Toyota boss John Howett confirmed that the manufacturer would have no interest in participating in the version of F1 that Max Mosley envisages for the future. That statement in itself came on the back of rumours that Toyota is looking to pull out of F1 in order to concentrate on sportscar racing.
On the same day the FIA also reiterated that its invitation to tender for the supply of a standardised engine remains open. Each of the six manufacturers involved in F1 — Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault, Honda, Toyota and BMW — has confirmed that it will not submit a tender.
If it wasn’t obvious before, it is now. Max Mosley’s grand scheme for the future of Formula 1 does not appeal to anybody. It doesn’t appeal to the fans and it clearly doesn’t appeal to the teams. Grand prix motor racing is not supposed to be about identical, and when manufacturers are not even able to design their own engines, really what is the point? They are bound to walk, and a Formula 1 without any names like Ferrari, Renault or Honda will be a pale imitation of its former self.
Let us not forget something that Max Mosley said at the height of the sex scandal earlier this year. In his letter that set out the reasons why he should remain in the job, he said that: “there has been a struggle for control of Formula One that goes back to the original Concorde Agreement in 1981.” Implicit in this was the notion that Max Mosley himself was the only person able to put a lit on such struggles for control.
Put aside the fact that Mosley has been FIA President for the majority of this period, and therefore is manifestly incapable of putting a lid on such power struggles. It seems to me that Max Mosley is the person who creates all of the division that gives rise to these power struggles.
As every week goes by, I increasingly hope that all of the teams just say, “enough is enough” and leave Formula 1 so that the poisonous meddlers at the FIA can find something else to stick their unwanted noses into.
I am not loyal to Formula 1. I never have been. I am, however, loyal to grand prix motor racing. I yearn for Max Mosley and his cronies at the FIA to have their power removed from their grubby hands.
By all accounts, the teams have never been more united. They have formed FOTA at the suggestion of Bernie Ecclestone, and apparently things are going incredibly smoothly. Here’s hoping that the teams can muster up the courage to leave Formula 1 and set up GP1.
People wring their hands about how bad a split would be. But let’s face it — such a Formula 1 might have the brand, but it would have little else. In fact, you could argue that F1 is an irreparably tarnished brand for a whole host of reasons — a lack of overtaking, dodgy stewards’ decisions, the various adventures of Max Mosley and so on. If it becomes a spec series, as Mosley apparently intends on making it, the best teams will leave and grand prix motor racing fans will struggle to maintain an interest.
My only real worry is that Formula 1 becomes the awful glorified slot car championship that Mosley plans on turning it into, and there is no alternative series for me to watch.
Keith at F1 Fanatic has more on Ferrari’s statement.
I wrote my dissertation about the paradox of voting, which is the problem that rational choice theorists have in explaining why people vote. You are more likely to be killed on the way to the polling station than affect the result once you’re inside it — so why vote? The puzzle interested me as soon as I heard of it and I still often think about it.
The answer is that people take into account not just the instrumental benefits of voting. They also take into account a variety of factors that can be loosely gathered under the umbrella term of “civic duty”. The benefits that people get from performing their civic duty outweigh the costs of voting.
That is a puzzle to me. But it is clear that this election is enthusing people to an extent that may never have been seen before. Barack Obama in particular is said to have engaged young people and black people in the US political process like never before. Early voting numbers are reported to be high. And now a person whose family has voted Republican for three generations has driven 600 miles to vote for Barack Obama.
It’s worth remembering that it’s not just Obama that is creating this extra interest. I heard a woman on the radio a few days ago saying that she will be voting for the first time in her life — for John McCain. She doesn’t trust Obama because of his inexperience.
It looks like the USA sees itself as being at an important cross-roads, for a whole host of reasons. They want to get this decision right.
Earlier today I had written about a small pile of troubles that have hit the BBC over its choice of commentary team for next season. Today it has emerged that the BBC has yet another problem — and this time it is with that despicable little man, Alan Donnelly.
The Daily Mail reports that Alan Donnelly — former Labour MEP (explains a lot), the FIA’s representative on earth and chief defender of Max Mosley — is expending his energy trying to dissuade the BBC from employing Martin Brundle. This is despite the fact that Brundle is widely regarded as one of the best pundits in any sport, never mind F1.
There is clear evidence that the FIA has attempted to silence its critics on a number of occasions. Martin Brundle himself has been the victim of the FIA’s bullying tactics.
Last year, at the height of the Stepneygate controversy, Martin Brundle wrote in his regular column for The Sunday Times what many others believe — that McLaren were victims of a witch-hunt, a play in Max Mosley’s personal vendetta against Ron Dennis. For that, the FIA threatened to sue The Sunday Times.
In his regular column, reacting to that news, Brundle revealed that he has been threatened by the FIA a number of times in the past:
I expect my accreditation pass for next year will be hindered in some way to make my coverage of F1 more difficult and to punish me. Or they will write to ITV again to say that my commentary is not up to standard despite my unprecedented six Royal Television Society Awards for sports broadcasting. So be it.
Now the FIA appear to have stepped up a gear and are pleading with the BBC not to hire this immensely popular commentator. It is clear that, if there was not a witch-hunt against McLaren, there is certainly a witch-hunt against Martin Brundle. It is yet further evidence that the FIA is scared of open debate and is only interested in hiding the truth. Mosley’s father would have been proud.