Tag Archives: tv

Personal artistic patronage – the next phase of TV….?

What do these people all have in common?

Spot the millionaire

They appear in some of the greatest works of art in the history of the world – because they had a) money and b) taste.

For centuries, the only way to get your art made was to make it for the Church, or in some cases for the Court. One of the key elements that spurred the great artistic reawakening was the pure economics of the situation – a new wave of more worldly masters, mainly merchants and venture capitalists. Of whom the undoubted rockstars were the Medici.

Out of love of glory bound together with love of art, they empowered artists, writers and poets to broaden their horizons, to explore the secular, and to express themselves on the grand stage.

Closer to the present day, we have this:

Now Richard Branson is no Medici (thus far.) But he is a representative of something we are all familiar with, whether as professionals or as irritated film goers – that as the commercial models of the past video industry crumble, we see increasing roles for businesses in funding (and appearing in) entertainment content.

It’s easy, and perhaps right, to be pretty suspicious of this force, particularly as it migrates to a more subliminal level, and to the screen in your living room rather than the public forum of the cinema.

They really could have leveraged the space on his forehead more effectively to improve brand recall...

But the fact is that the economics of the world of TV are changing. This will definitely mean a more integral role within the world of TV content for brands and companies. I would argue that there is also a potential role for individuals, and that the day of the great patrons will return. Why?

In the past, there were 4 things that gave you power in the world of TV, and that made the TV channels and networks powerful (loosely quoting Andy Lippmann, of the MIT Media Lab.)

1. Access to a mass form of distribution

2. Money for and capability at promoting content

3. Venture capital to invest in creative projects

4. The taste and expertise to act as a curator and editor

What is interesting about this is that we sit at an interesting turning point in the world of TV, where the first two are changing beyond all recognition.

What an Apple TV almost certainly won't look like

Distribution is through the internet or wireless connection – and YOU own and pay for that. And promotion…well, increasingly, you do that too, because the recommendations you and your friends make to each other are much more powerful than any advertising campaign.

So that leaves two aspects: venture capital for creative projects, and the taste and expertise to choose the right content and support the right talent.

Which sounds an awful lot like artistic patronage. Add this to an app-led, tablet-style interface and the chances of watching the Bill Gates or the Madonna channel seem more and more likely. Especially as Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus increasingly condition us to expect a Web of content organised around people, rather than topics or channels.

This wouldn’t be anything brand new – CurrentTV feels near as dammit like the Al Gore Channel.

Current TV. Good, but ahead of its time.

And it won’t necessarily be individuals…it could be collectives (like the Coppolla/Bogdanovich/Friedkin ‘Directors Company of the 1970s)

The Directors Company - good, but ahead of their time (and generally mad and power-crazed)

But in the next phase of TV, artistic patronage could come back in a big way.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The real NOTW headline – the age of broadcast political bullies is nearly over

This week saw the closure of an outdated and unprofitable Sunday tabloid newspaper. It also saw a feeding frenzy on the unholy relationship between broadcast media players and politicians. One of these stories is very important.

It is so easy to use pantomime villains like Murdoch and Brooks, or even Cameron and Blair, as the focal point of our righteous indignation. To do this is to ignore something much more fundamental at work. What we are seeing is an assassination attempt on the now long-standing axis of News International and the British Government.

There are some angry people out there.

The white blood cells of the Guardian, celebrities and the massed ranks of the Twitterati are in full onslaught against every chink in the Murdoch armour. They are determined to use this moment, in which News International should have been celebrating their impending ascendancy as masters of the convergent media battlefield, to bring their ambitions crashing to earth.

This is no mean feat. After all, this is one of the most potent power relationships in the UK. To an extent many certainly do not realise.

This is also in the context of an entire past century in which political power and media broadcasting have been inseparable. In fact the political history of the 20th Century can be seen just as clearly through the lens of media change as through the lens of political wings. After all, it was the era of mass newspaper distribution, of radio fireside chats, of movie newsreels, and live televised debates.

When you think of the icons of the political nineteenth century, you might think of them through their portraits. Or perhaps through their speeches, or their nicknames. When you think of the icons of 20th Century Media, you almost immediately think of them through their media appearances. To be a political superstar in the 20th Century, you had to be a master of the media.

Perhaps the greatest of all was Churchill – just one of a list (FDR being another great example) of true gurus of the radio broadcast.

JFK is of course one of the most iconic American politicians of all time – despite a decidedly patchy administrative and moral record. But he was great on TV. Nixon (at this point a hugely respected figure of great integrity) was not.

And to take things to their most logical and ridiculous extreme, let’s not forget that this man is now pretty much the most respected President of the 20th Century.

And played out to its worst extremes, of course the 20th Century brought us the tide of fascism, of Communist based dictatorship – usually established on a bedrock of broadcast-driven cultural brainwashing.

Even in the succeeding and supposedly more cynical age, the power of the broadcast media continued. In particular, still the press, with which politicians remain absolutely entranced, it being the only medium that is truly interested in them, and which enables them to keep score. Particularly the tabloids, which they perceive as being able to connect with ‘ordinary people’ in a way that they have forgotten. And of course to many of them, it is still the Sun wot won it (or lost it).

Some say Kinnock could have lost it without them

Blair and his ‘spin doctors’ were described as a new generation of super-cynical, media-obsessed politicians. In reality, they were the end of the old era – the last generation of effective media managers. They could still, just about, manage public opinion through 3 or 4 really big media relationships, with Murdoch as the centrepiece. But the mere fact that the world of spin is one of the first things we think of in relation to a government that brought peace to Northern Ireland and war to Iraq is testament to the unravelling failure of that form of message management.

And now, we see Cameron, the apparent heir to Blair, the PR man in Number 10, playing out the next stage of this decaying power structure. Suddenly his power base looks fragile, and his big bet on Murdoch and Coulsen looks rash and destructive. Not only because of ethical questions – but because when it really comes to the crunch, even Murdoch’s legions represent a pretty small part of the spectrum of opinion, and a tiny fragment of the playing field of active participation in political discourse.

The relationship with the media isn’t going away as a crucial success factor for politicians. It can only become more extreme as media itself becomes a bigger part of life. But the axis of politicians with ‘The Media’ – ie a small circle of powerful but venal owners and editors – is no longer a sustainable power model. It is more transparent than ever, and there is more of the political discourse outside of their control. It is a more fragile base than ever on which to build control.

Nor are the traditional skills of message management going to retain the same power as before. The idea of owning the ‘news cycle’ practiced so successfully by Blair and Campbell in their honeymoon period, simply do not work if your ‘workings’ can be scaled to the population at any moment, without the need for a broadcaster to drive the distribution. Which is why this kind of approach from Ed Miliband simply will not work any more.

A new generation of politicians will find a new way to bend the media to their ends no doubt, but retaining the kind of control they are used to won’t be possible in the future. We see politicians dabbling in listening exercises and ‘Twitter Town Halls’ as they dip their feet in the future. But it is fair to see we haven’t got it work out yet (I will consider this in a future post.)

One thing that is clear is that as with entertainment and marketing, a distribution model on its own will not be enough. Ultimately content – transparent and compelling actions – will be more powerful than ever.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Lost in Meta-News

A very inspiring English Literature teacher once told me that all poems were about poetry, and all plays were about plays. Increasingly my newsreaders seems to be telling me that all news is about news.

Now I happen to think that poetry and plays should be about other things too, but what my teacher said stuck in my mind, because for literature by and large it is true.

The artistic process is inherently a meta-process, because any medium we engage, from blank page to blank canvas to blinking cursor, acts a mirror to ourselves. Ultimately when we engage with the world of imagination we only have ourselves as material to work with.

Great artistic works, like Proust, or Hamlet, or, are often acutely meta-textual, to an extent that they feel almost like organisms becoming aware of themselves. And in fact we almost define the trajectory of artistic progression as a medium’s path to supreme self-consciousness.

This is not a pipe. But it is a fantastic student poster.

But the news is different. Because the news, by and large, is one of the most essential tools we have in creating social cohesion and empathy, and to help people to understand real events in the world around them.

But it seems that finding out the news is just getting harder and harder. Because all anyone wants to tell me now is the Meta-News.

What do I mean by this exactly? Well, after reading this watch pretty much any TV news apart from the BBC World Service, or read pretty much any newspaper apart from the Financial Times, and you are likely to very quickly notice that about 50% of the airtime is devoted to coverage of the reaction to the news, or the process through which the news was obtained, or the difficulties in filming the news – with astonishingly little detail on what has ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

The modern news studio - a monument to Meta

Nowhere is this worse than in the world of 24 hour live news, in which the irregular flow of real news poses as significant threat to the much more regular flow of actual minutes and seconds. One thing that remains constant however is the speed at which people speak, film and report the news. That makes it a godsend to the rolling news editor.

This whole phenomenon went way beyond satire some time ago, though it has fed some of the very best, from Brass Eye to Charlie Brooker.

But that doesn’t make it any less disturbing to try to discover the details and impact of the Osama Bin Laden, and have to try to weed out a couple of actual facts from amongst the debris of people’s emails, footage of strange macabre people dancing in Times Square and a randomised selection of tweets.

This last area is particularly painful. News knows that email is important, and that there is every chance Twitter might be even more important. What is the response of TV news? Use it as filler. The ultimate, infinite time-filler of opinion. What’s more, a bottomless pool of opinion – which means you can easily find opinion to back the agenda of the broadcaster. Perfect.

The result – a relentless flow of jabber, which makes the angry angrier, the old-fashioned ever more befuddled, and which to the vaguely tech literate looks like an old-fashioned headmaster putting on sunglasses and trying to do some tricks on a skateboard.

All of which is silly, and infuriating, but worst of all, represents a collective shrug by the news broadcasting industry at the creative potential inherent in the most connected age of mankind, to get people to understand and empathize with news in ways never achieved before, in favour of the news equivalent of the music you hear in lifts.

It’s not all bad. Anderson Cooper on CNN is immense, and his fluency in the multi-screen world is awe inspiring – including the seamless interaction of international coverage and inside accounts on Twitter and YouTube into his reports. This is what the new golden age of newscasting could be all about.

In the meantime, the great majority of news coverage is still rather self-excited, and lost in a tedious and iniquitous spiral of-Meta News. Let’s hope it emerges soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sometimes, people prefer to talk by pigeon

In April 1912, the sinking of the Titanic created the first ever SOS radio signal – and, through the accidental pickup of amateur radio enthusiasts, the first live broadcast news event.

The Titanic: not enough lifeboats, but a state-of-the-art radio system

Originally radio was a ‘point to point’ medium, with entrepreneurs in the USA taking a little while to pick up on its broadcasting potential (but then rapidly accelerating and creating NBC, RKO and CBS). But even as a ‘point to point’ medium it was still immediately comprehended how important it was. So important in fact that the Navy and  military in the US spent a couple of decades pressuring the US government to restrict use to the armed forces. With this new medium, a commander could instantly be in touch with his units, discuss the emerging situation, and re-deploy.

And yet, throughout the First and Second World War, the most violent and destructive conflicts in man’s history, the preferred method of military communication looked like this.

Less portable than a Blackberry, but friendlier

This reminds me that whilst new technology creates a Jump in human behavior and psychology, it’s rarely immediate, and never comprehensive. There is little doubt that radio is a better way of communicating than a pigeon. But the people responsible for running the war(s) still stuck to pigeons for anything really important.

There are a couple of good functional reasons. One, of course, is security. Shooting down a lone pigeon over enemy lines is trickier than intercepting a radio signal. In fact I’ve seen some good arguments that the Allies’ victory in the world wars had a lot to do with superiority in encryption – the subject of a reasonably good movie (Enigma). The other is speed – a pigeon is fast than you think. In fact, in September 2009, a South African IT company pitted a pigeon with a memory stick against ADSL over a 50 mile distance to see which arrived first. By the time all information had been taken from the memory stick, ADSL was 4% of the way through…

What I find most fascinating, however, is that a big part of the attachment to pigeons was emotional, not functional. This was a communications technology that the forces and the people back home had a lot of trust and emotion tied up in. For evidence, see the aura of heroism that was built up around these noble pigeons. Take, for example, Cher Ami.

Cher Ami was one of many pigeons that was merely the greatest of a series of pigeons given medals or treated like heroes during the two World Wars – the full story is well worth reading here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cher_Ami.

So I guess one reason to use the pigeon is that you can’t imbue a radio with a sense of heroism…nor even really a radio operator. Whereas a pigeon, just about, can be anthropomorphized into a hero. Which is important in times of war I guess.

This thought and many others have been triggered by this great book, ‘Hello, Everybody!” by Anthony Rudel. It covers the early days of American radio, and is funny, interesting and revealing. Highly recommended.

books about radio are like pigeons about films (or something)

It reminds me just how fundamental the early phase of the rise of radio was, representing as it does the whole invention of one-to-many live communication. It changed the way we think of news stories, like the wreck of the Titanic. It created modern politics, through the fireside chats of Silent Cal Coolidge. It generated the whole concept of celebrity, in the person of Charles Lindbergh. It is responsible for almost every form of entertainment you see on TV every night. It represented the golden age of advertising and brands. It made sportspeople like Babe Ruth globally famous for the first time.

In fact, so much happened so fast as radio emerged, that it’s like we can see reflections of that age in the 1920s everywhere around us, frozen in time. We are in the later days of the broadcasting age, when the gleeful populism of the 1920s is fading, but maybe having its final flourish. The digital age will do a lot to change all these things, and is doing so. But it won’t happen over night.

After all, sometimes people prefer to talk  by pigeon…

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Filming the Jump: #2 Wayne’s World

I know it’s not normally seen like this, but as a 13-year-old in 1992, Wayne’s World felt like a moment of triumph – when the young, funny, irreverent and fun-loving took over the establishment of TV. Mike Myers’ Wayne was the monkey in charge of the banana factory. He was funny. He was rude. He listened to good music. And he was a thousand times funnier and more compelling than anything else on the corporate-driven TV networks.

Wayne’s triumph over the TV moguls was the real story of the movie. They tried to screw him, but he triumphed, by being funny, talented, and having an unbeatable group of friends. All culminating in a full rectal examination of the very creepy Rob Lowe…

Rob Lowe - post Brat Pack, pre rectal probe

Without taking the symbolism too far, it is interesting to look at the counterpoint between Mike Myers and Rob Lowe. Lowe was the poster child of the previous wave of youth empowerment…the Brat Pack. But Rob Low, and Molly Ringwald, and Emilio Esetevez had been part of an apparent wave of teen power that was in fact the old school movie system in new clothing. They were pretty to look at, and served up a convincing product of teen rebellion. But they were very much in front of, not behind the camera. Wayne’s World was about the kids (albeit, in Mike Myers case, a 29 year-old in a baseball cap) taking over the medium.

In a time when the big networks’ grip on broadcast was being broken by the proliferation of TV stations and the rise of cable and satellite technology, this seemed very plausible. Kids had gone wanting their MTV to wanting to run their own show. The kids were taking control of the airwaves, of the interaction, making it more real and direct, and they were bringing the audience with them.

Flip forward a couple of decades, and it is clear that this hasn’t happened.

It feels like there is less live music than pretty much ever before. MTV, the bedrock of teen culture for quite a while, is content to churn out reality TV and docu-soap that is more appealing to 20-somethings looking to vegetate with a hangover as it is to angry young kids.

money for nothing, and chicks for free

There are a couple of exceptions that prove the rule – Skins, for example, continues to fly the flag, particularly in the US where its launch has entranced teenagers and predictably outraged sponsors. South Park manages, just about, to sustain a balance of rage and gross out comedy. But overall, TV feels more and more like the playground of professional adults and corporate interests.

But this isn’t a rant about the sell out of TV to ‘the Man’…the point of course is that there is another show in town – the Internet. Why bother to try to seize control of the airwaves, and the means of cultural production, when all you need to create your own space and audience is upload to YouTube or set up your own online record label? When there is a media option that is so much more vital, immediate, interactive and sociable, why bother with TV?

The leadenness of TV is particularly clear when you see its attempts to feed from the internet. Behold the horror of Tosh.O.

The problem with all of this is that without the active participation of all the smart, funny kids in the world in the future of TV, we are missing out on a lot. We are missing our chance to create inspiring pop culture movements at one moment in time. We are under-selling the potential of the box in the corner, which can be interactive and vital, but is almost always generating passivity. And we are missing out on the sense of empowerment that each new generation gets from taking over control of the institutions of the previous generation.

And the fact remains that with production and distribution getting ever cheaper, media consumption fragmenting, the chance to make Wayne’s World come to life is greater than ever. It would be great to see someone do it – and as a 30-something marketing guy…to see it and feel like it WASN’T designed for me…

betty rubble has aged somewhat better than Madonna...

Instead, we have this. A Wayne’s World sketch on Saturday Night Live. 15 years after it ceased to be relevant. Actually it’s not unfunny. But it might be good to see something new…

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Filming the Jump: #1 Sunset Boulevard

When the movies went from silent to talking, who got left behind? How did it change the movie industry for the people in it? How did the change in the medium affect the world? That is the single-minded obsession of a film of obsessive, singular greatness – 1950’s Sunset Boulevard.

One very scary lady

The melodramatic black hole of a performance by Gloria Swanson in the lead, and the obvious symbolism of the title, draw you into a speculation on the end of something. But it is important to remember that at the core of this film is also the beginning of something – in fact of what you would normally consider the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’.

The era of Norma Desmonds’s seclusion after all is the era of Bogart, of Gone with the Wind, of Howard Hawks. This was an era where the script and the dialogue was king, where people went to the movies to hear people talk, and where the dialogue comes so thick and fast that it feels (perhaps rightly) like audiences at this time weighing their ticket price vs the volume of words and making their judgements accordingly. Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Lauren Bacall…all not only great actors but phenomenal when judged on words per minute…

Sunset Boulevard is thick with distaste for the world of words that seemed to have been unleashed by the new age of movies – and by implication, TV too. Its lead, lent almost-sympathy in the dramatic trick of making him narrate from beyond the grave, is profoundly unsympathetic as a word-churning writer. In fact writers across the board seem like a pretty tawdry lot, pumping on second-rate variations on formula, filled with plausible verbiage.

The chattering fast talk of journalists and writers alike is thrown into sharp relief by the Norma Desmond’s dramatic delivery and physical expressiveness. The intense drama of her declarations of affection are played off against the facile verbal fencing of the writer’s love affair. And the most powerful character, Butler/Director Max, is a man of very few words.

It’s also a movie in a grand tradition of pieces in which ‘I love you’ is held cheap. There is only one person who seems to mean it when they say it, if for all the wrong reasons – and that’s Norma Desmond. Particularly when she has it engraved in gold.

What we can feel in this movie is not so much a harking back to the golden days of the silent screen – much as you hanker for them as Buster Keaton flits across the screen – as an underlying unease about the world of chatter, of too many words from too many people signifying too little. And this was in 1950. Project this forward to the modern age of ubiquitous video, and you begin to get a sense of how much psychological pressure and acrobatic effort is placed upon the human mind by this deluge of words.

To end with a huge diversion – this line of thought leads me to reconsider what I consume with my ears, just as I do (sometimes) what I eat. On this subject, a great talk from the ever great TED. Maybe it is worth considering how to ration the chatter that we absorb every day – and to weigh and ration each word as people did when they first saw the Jazz Singer…and consigned Norma Desmond to a slow death of madness.

Fittingly, Sunset Boulevard also has two lines of dialogue, terse and perfect that are amongst the greatest in cinema.

“Mr De Mille? I’m ready for my close up.”

and, most appropriately…

“I’m still big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

when mickey mouse met stravinsky – whatever happened to innovative cultural fusion?

today it is 70 years since the launch of fantasia, in which walt disney reinvented classical music for a new generation through mickey mouse and a lot of hand drawn animation.

it is an incredible film. we are fortunate to live in an age of incredible animation that has produced the first 45 minutes of wall-e, and the first five minutes of up (still the most emotionally satisfying exposition of character that i’ve seen in years.)

but despite the technical wizardry, incredible heart and storytelling craft of the pixar gems, nothing quite matches the insane bravery of making a film which was essentially a music video to bach, stravinsky and tchaikovsky, in which the boundaries of hand-drawn animation were broken several times every day during production. it is a great example of the incredible innovation that comes from combining two seemingly irreconcilable forms of culture – with spectacular, transformational effects.

i’ve just finished re-reading, for the fourth time or so  i think, ‘easy riders, raging bulls’ by Peter Biskind. if you haven’t read it, it is a phenomenal examination of the reinvention of hollywood in the early 1970s. i recommend it highly…if you haven’t got time, here is a snippet of the accompanying documentary to whet your appetite.

again, what is remarkable about this period, in which hopper, beatty, scorcese, coppola, friedkin, lucas and spielberg rewrote the rules of cinema, is not extraordinary technical progress, or even extraordinary originality, but an incredible facility in blending together generations, cultures and styles. in particular, each of these directors in their own way was obsessed with applying the cerebral style of the french new wave to new, pop culture genres – the western, the gangster story, the detective story – again changing the medium in the process.

this of course isn’t limited to movies. it underpins many other fields – like the stages of bob dylan’s progress, particularly the seminal moment when he linked the traditional folk music of the american midwest to the electric ryhthm and blues of new york – in itself an innovation so powerful that large sectors of the transatlantic folk community wanted to lynch him. which he took with his usual wacky humour.

there are a million other examples, from the distant and elevated (ancient rome meets renaissance florence) to the recent and humorous (clueless merges beverley hills 90210 and jane austen’s emma.) but i can’t think of any recently.

i have a couple of thoughts on why this might be, both of which are coloured by the marketing world that i operate in.

the first has been the inexorable rise of the mash up. bringing together different times, different cultures through music and images, is almost too easy now, too commonplace. it has become the province of the joke, or the statement of cool, rather than the statement of art. (though this, featuring snow white, feels quite magical to me…)

the second, i think, is related to the world of marketing. at its best, modern marketing is very good at focusing on the authentic, the pure, the ‘usp’. this kind of focus is what i see in some of the braver films of recent time – where the fashion has become the ‘redux’, the ‘more original than the original’, rather than the skewed retelling for another age. at its worst, modern marketing is all about having as predictable a set of demand as possible – which you get by creating sequels, or creating genre pictures – which may not necessarily break the mould of cinema, but do provide much more predictable box office (crucial to an industry with huge marketing and infrastructure costs in advance of release, and small profit margins.)

this film made perfect marketing and commercial sense...

but more generally it feels like we have reached a place culturally where we are uncomfortable with the idea of reinvention, or remixing, as a serious artistic statement. and as a result it feels like we are in a somewhat conservative place – at best lots of slavish devotion to original text, at worst lots of repetitive, formulaic product.

maybe it would be nice to see things being mixed up a bit again…?

i’ve acquired lots of new readers recently, which has been very exciting. thanks. if you are enjoying what you’re reading, you can subscribe on this page, or add me to your reader if you are a pro. or just drop in from time to time. thanks!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

fox news = daily mail on happy pills

ok. so we all hate fox news. it is not for people like us. i shall subject myself to ten minutes of method viewing/writing, and see what conclusions i can draw.

fox news - like the daily mail, but happy about it

10:13pm: fox news is massively psyched about the fact that the queen is in new york. and that she is 84. aw, bless.

10:14pm:  a classic fox news story…priest + fraud + assumptions of sexual misconduct = screentime

10:17pm:  fox news is immensely proud of its semi-celebrity weatherman, and of the fact that its viewers baked his face onto a disgusting looking cake.

10:19pm:  fox news is watched by the kind of people that are more likely to buy a $899 bed if they are given a free gift of a small stuffed sheep or a plastic alarm clock.

10:21pm:  it is day 78 of the ‘BP crisis’ (sic). there are also many other big numbers associated this story, but few animals. fox news is confident that oil-eating bacteria are the answer. they are apparently ‘nature’s little housekeepers’.

10:22pm:  the people who create their credit sequences have definitely, DEFINITELY never seen the Day Today.

10:23pm:  the weather coverage is by far the most informative and accurate section of the news coverage.

10:25pm:  ‘in the news tonight, a submarine transformed to carry tonnes of cocaine – and that’s a wrap’ (queue laughter)

10:25-10:26pm:  ample to cover world news

10:30:  people like parks apparently. this is getting a much longer slot than the poitical situation in the middle east. in classic new york style, they seem to be including golf courses under the categorisation of parks. fox overall seems relatively in favour of privatising parks. this does not sound to me like a good idea…

conclusion…fox news…

LIKES: privatisation, the queen, the weather, pompous credit sequences, sexy priests, cocaine

DISLIKES: the environment, the world, the news

STYLE: cheerful, flippant, excitable, tanned, insane

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

how we can help sepp blatter

for the benefit of anyone who has somehow been able to avoid the world cup, perhaps by trekking through mongolia, or being an american basketball/baseball fan, the biggest talking point in the world right now, but particularly in england and mexico, is the use of technology to aid crucial refereeing decisions in football matches.

in particular, the english are up in arms having had victory/slightly less bad humiliation taken away from them by the failure of a linesman to see a ball bounce a yard and a half over the goal line.

in any other professional sport, this would have been resolved years ago. but football is run by fifa. and fifa is run by sepp blatter.

sepp blatter - he can't hear you

i am sure there are people in the world who love mr blatter dearly. football fans tend not to be among them. his three main hobbies appear to be 1) needlessly tinkering with the rules of the best game on earth 2) being more interested in corporate hospitality than the challenges of sexual health in south africa and 3) rejecting calls for the use of technology to aid referees.

every now and again he takes a day off and does something that is just utterly crazy. like telling women to play football in bikinis (see below)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/3402519.stm

there is one thing that sepp blatter said recently that struck a slight chord with me – that one of the reasons he doesn’t personally believe in the use of technology is because he doesn’t want the game at the highest level to be significantly different from how it is at every other level. which, as a principle, i think is a good one.

(though, as an aside, sepp clearly doesn’t extend ‘all levels of the game’ as low as anything i have ever played. i can count on the fingers of one hand the number of games i have played with linesmen.)

anyway, at the top level, the problem has been solved. this is what the ball would probably look like. (though why a vaguely intelligent person with a telly couldn’t do the job is questionable.)

however if you take the ‘intelligent ball’ principle, ie assume the availability of a ball with a chip in it, would it not be possible to monitor its position with a simple mobile application, that detects how far the ball has travelled? and given the incredible spread of the smart phone, could this not be a practical reality all over the world pretty quickly?

then we can stop having to listen to sepp mumbling why this isn’t possible, when it clearly is.

allowing him to focus his time on trying to institute a fancy dress football tournament for the over 60s, or whatever delicious madness awaits us next.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

a big screen in a pub – the technological mountaintop for watching the football?

so ITV, with classic elegance and grace, managed to steal away the one moment of joy in a dismal World Cup viewing experience from those with the perseverance and faith to watch its HD service. Instead of seeing Gerrard slide the ball coolly into the USA net, they instead saw a bizarre sequence involving some Hyundais, a footpump and some fruit-related littering. poor sods.

obviously, this being a period of history when we collectively thirst for new ways to experience audiovisual entertainment, there are a lot of different ways to watch this World Cup. you can watch it online in splitscreen and inflict your half-baked analysis of Carragher’s speed on the turn on a wider public than would be able to hear you otherwise. you can go to the cinema and watch it in 3D (which if it takes off surely creates some kind of role for James Cameron as a football manager?)  I haven’t found it yet, but I’m sure out there somewhere someone is creating a sound-canceling technology that can remove the buzz of vuvezelas from the sounds feed. (Please.)

ludicrous as it sounds, I am going to leap in there and claim that there is no technology that could make the football watching experience better than a really big screen, with a decent sound system, in a decent pub. the picture quality could improve slightly, for sure. there could be better ways to order your drinks, for sure (there is nothing worse than waiting in a queue at the bar, facing away from the screen, as you queue for a round of drinks you will hardly be able to carry.) it could be easier to make sure all the people you want to meet end up in the same pub (and when a quorum of my friends have begun to get their heads around location-based technology, this may happen.)

but for the moment, a big screen and a pub is as good as it gets. because watching the football isn’t about watching the football. it is about getting the chance to stand in an empowering group of people, shouting and roaring in public, totally immersed in a drama that doesn’t matter but is nonetheless all consuming. and a set of goggles, or the perfect living room set up, or the need to interact and comment, can only get in the way of an experience which is already fulfllling in a totally unique way.

come on England.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized