Archive for May, 2007

Rodrigo Y Gabriela @ Shepherds Bush Empire

Rodrigo Y Gabriela.

If I practiced my guitar from now until the day I die I will never, ever, be as good as either of these two. If ever there were some musicians that epitomised ‘genre busting’, it would be these guys. They do things with guitars that are mind bending. They’re particularly known for metal and rock covers having been raised on a teenage diet of thrash metal from the likes of Metallica and Pantera. But then if you listen to a peice like ‘Mr Tang’. it’s something like acoustic guitar dance music – it’s incredible. And they hate being described as flamenco, Spanish or jazz, (so where do you stack the CD in HMV?) Anyway…

Shepherds Bush Empire, great venue for what I thought would be a real intimate little concert. Oh how wrong I was. In a sentence. Great gig, shite audience. They wouldn’t shut up! This sort of music is quite delicate, you have to actually fucking listen. We got in and somehow ended up near what must have been guest list liggers… normal people don’t pay £15 a ticket to stand at the side bar drinking flat beer at £3.50 a pint from a plastic glass and talking about their ‘day’ do they? Do they? So for the first ten minutes all I heard was:

ligger A: Saw Steve at the weekend
ligger B: What?
ligger B: Yeah?
ligger A: Yeah, totally munted.
ligger B: What?

It’ll settle down I think.. when it doesn’t I turned around and shout ‘Shut up!’ much to Mrs E’s annoyance. A group of four in front of us wouldn’t shut up either… everytime a they played a cover she had to ask her ex-metal fan boyf who now obviously works in sales or something what the song was everyone was cheering.

There’s a real danger with Rodrigo Y Gabriela that people seem them as some Mike Flowers post modern ironic acoustic lounge cover band duo, all be it talented one’s. So is it metal and rock covers made safe for the over 40s?

In the end all this chatter became too much and we pushed through to the middle where wide-eyed unblinking muso’s where trying to note every chord progression, at least they were listening, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to a gig where the audience has had to go ‘shhhhhh’ when a quite bit comes on.

So the beer bottle Pink Floyd solo was there, which was good, as well as ‘One’ bby Metallica and The Eagles’ Hotel California, and ‘Stairway to Heaven‘. But also things likeTamacun. See they’re ‘how to’ here..

So, bar liggers aside it was a great gig. Go and see them, or but a track from iTunes, or just watch all the stuff on youtube. Honestly, they’re incredible.

BBC Daytime – Tex Mex hold ’em?

“Food Poker is an innovative take on a cookery show for BBC Two combining the thrill of a poker round with the competitive edge that always ensues when you put two or more top chefs in a kitchen together.”

BBC – Press Office – BBC Daytime cooks up a storm

Food and Poker?! Poker..and Daytime? Who commissioned that? Monkey Tennis factor of 8/10. It’s worth noting that one of the other ideas Alan Partridge pitched just before he hit monkey tennis was ‘Cooking in Prison’ surely it’s only a matter of time…

So, with sports/food hybrid all the rage… here’s one I prepared earlier.

The Pitch: Cooking on Horse Back sees Clare Balding and Angela Hartnett squeezed into jhodpers and aprons to achive epicurean equine ecstasy. BBC Two 7pm.

It’ll appeal to horsey loving upper middle England: Plenty of big strapping girls, stallions, chefs and stablehands and sexual chemistry. Featuring special guest spot from Zara Phillips. Blob of history talking about Mongolian ‘saddle meat’ and game cooking demo. Segment called ‘Angels on Horseback’ where we take the local gymcarana for a lunch. Canter round the paddock – credits.

I reckon 2.4 Million audience share and a really high audience appreciation amongst horsey county pursuit types and absolutely no horse meat eating!

Actually one of the most interesting food show on TV at the moment I think is ‘Take away my Takeaway’. But it’s part of Channel 4’s learning strand so not many people have seen it (Did you know that the modern kebab was invented in Germany). It is however, on 4oD. In a sense it follows on from the likes of Jamie’s school dinners and River cottage treatment. Only it’s aimed squarely at teenagers, who are a much under served food audience, having not seen any programming aimed at them since Get Stuffed.

user generated content construction kit

When I was a lad in the early 80s, Sensible software released ‘Shoot ’em up Construction Kit’ for the Commodore 64. It was crude, it was simple, but it allowed people like me, with a creative idea, to at least attempt to make something move and have something else shoot at it, without having to think about programming.

I was in the pub the other night with a couple of pals. One of this group had a really good idea, something simple, fun, easy and niche. It needed a database behind it… I’ve got an idea that needs a database behind it. Where’s the bogger/typepad/wordpress of databases? Is there one? I’ve got ideas, but pages like this scare me!

So I’m asking any data base software dev person out there to make something that other people can pin there ideas on to.

It should have:

User registration
Ability to upload text, images, links, audio and video
Calendar function
Geo function

So, if there’s a database techie guy out there who’s also interested in food and/or music please get in touch, There’s some money in it.

Website ‘baffles’ trial judge

Nice to see the judiciary with their finger on the cultural pulse of the nation.

“Web site” baffles Internet terrorism trial judge – Yahoo News

Control Freaks – A bad day for the BBC

“iPlayer is swarming with people,” one source, who asked to remain anonymous, told MediaGuardian. “They’re throwing more and more people at it – a classic mistake – while McKinsey suits run around carrying wads of paper and trying to look important. The BBC often tries to be a software development company, and fails every time.”

I was trying to think who could have said this… but then thinking back, it could have been anyone who’s even come close to the iPlayer project.

“As a result, the corporation is suffering a brain drain as bright technologists quit for fresh – and less frustrating – pastures.” The article goes on to say. Now modesty prevents me from describing myself as a ‘brain’, but I worked with some people at the BBC who were truly talented, most have now left, though a few are still there. However, it’s true that ‘less frustrating pastures’ is bang on the money. And I’ve experience off this. I was New Media’s picture editor, and as such was scheduled to work on the iPlayer. I left to go to Channel4 as…. picture editor for 4oD and Channel 4, a very similar job on paper. And yet having been here three months now, a world away in terms of attitude. Draw your own conclusions.

Not a great day for the Auntie in the elsewhere media.

“If you are interested in becoming a TV journalist, it is a fine example of how not to do it.”

Brilliant, professional understatement of the year. How to throw a total spanner in the much lauded objective nature of BBC reporting. The other clip doing the rounds is where the sunglasses wearing scientology guy gets mad and quotes the first amendment to the declaration of independence before storming off, only to be chased by Sweeney saying ” But I’m not a citizen of the United States, I’m a British Subject! And we have the right of free speech!”. It’s more a culture clash as much as anything, as I felt Louis Theroux fell into on the first of his new series, the most hated family in America. He actually got annoyed for the first time.

Still, New Media’s been on another recruitment drive, and what do they need? MORE MANAGEMENT! Appoint another ‘controller’, and then ‘controller in charge of overseeing program strategy’. I’m sure Erik’s a nice guy, but I’ve got to be skeptical of someone who’s past product successes are ‘MSTV, eHome and the Zune’. The Zune?! I know one person with one, and he only bought it to spite Jobs and cos he loves Bill. There’s been other internet noise about someone who’s so obviously a Microsoft man, from Glyn and then some wider thoughts by Cory.

Now, Channel 4 uses similar technology, indeed the same company to offer 4oD. However, we’re also offering free 7 day catch up and are thinking about the future from lessons learned with a live product. C4 isn’t funded by the license fee, despite still being a public service broadcaster (yeah I find that hard to believe looking at the schedule sometimes too, but then we show programmes like this) so at least the argument of ‘I’ve already paid for this so should be able to do what I want with it’ doesn’t apply. But being a mac user and open source fan I’d love to see the situation change.. and there’s people thinking about this right now, honestly. On the mac issue, as I’ve said before 4oD runs just fine on a mac so long as you have either Bootcamp or parallels installed along with a copy of windows on an intel mac – granted not your average user set up, but it will work.

More bad news comes in the official closing of Jam – the BBC’s learning website by Liz ‘the’ Cleaver as she’s known to all who’ve lost their jobs over the years. Well what a waste of money that was. iPlayer delays, Jam closures, more upper management… let’s face it BBC Future Media and Technology is punching above it’s weight while at the same time not delivering key products. Worse, it’s letting past products like H2G2 and others whither on the vine. Booooo.

Picture Buyer’s Fair: What’s the future for the image?

On Thursday I attended the Picture Buying Fair, organized by BAPLA, (The British Association of Picture Libraries -Yes, there is such an organization) It was rather a low key trade affair, with not a huge amount of display. However it did have an interesting seminar line up, of which I attended three.

The first one I managed to squeeze into as it had already started when I got there at 1pm was Seminar 2: A Word of Advice: Privacy, Censorship and Photography. Which was suppose to take place on the Wednesday but seems to have been rearranged. The speaker was Rupert Grey, who was a real life Judge John Dean style of a guy.Just look at his CV! Not only is he a top media lawyer, but he’s been a cowboy and lumberjack in the Yukon, an oyster fisherman in New Zealand, the official photographer on Arctic expeditions and he’s an 18th Century Furniture dealer! What a guy, bet he’s good for a yarn or two round the table. Like all people who speak publicly for a living Rupert held the floor in the palm of his hand with his beguiling mahogany voice, he enunciated each word like a wine taster chewing a Barolo, rolling it around his mouth.

Anyway, here’s my notes on his talk. His main thesis was the development of a Privacy Law in the UK. At the moment we don’t have one on the statue books, there is no Privacy Act. But recently there have been a number of cases where article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights have been used.

He went on to talk about this picture by Cartier-Bresson. And how perhaps nowadays, you couldn’t publish such a photo without the sitters model release, even though they’re in a public place. He went on to site Peck vs The United Kingdom 2003. In which Geoffrey Dennis Peck was awarded nearly £20K as an image of him brandishing a knife (after a faild suicide bid) in Brentwood High Street was used to promote the virtues of CCTV in maintaining law and order. So the ‘public place’ defense doesn’t always hold water. He then went on to talk about the Gilbert Duclos case in Quebec, Canada. A definition of privacy it seems, like pornography, is difficult to pin down.

He then moved on to the notion that ‘celebrities have the right to make an economic living from their image’. And talked about the OK! vs Hello! case. In summing up, he nodded to new technologies like Flickr and Facebook, and these are changing the public and private realms, see the recent myspace teacher photo episode. There are some very serious issues around privacy at the moment. It was a really interesting talk from someone who not only knew his legal onions, but also was a practicing photographer and new about the issues we all face.

The next seminar I attended was Seminar 5: Back to Basics: Clearing Image Rights for Media Use. It was interesting in that anything useful or thought worthy had to be dug out from under the showreel of Corbis or the plug for Mary Evans Picture Library, both of whom spent time talking about their businesses relative merits.

Paul Brown went first, to outline why Right Managed imagery and ‘personal professional searching’ were still important in this day and age, he then recapped the current rights situation, RM, RF, subscription and micro-payments, culminating with, if it’s just about cost, why isn’t everyone using micro?

Ivan Purdie then took the floor, and gave us a look at some of the work Corbis do, particularly in the commercial sector. First up was an advert for the Italian yellow pages I think, which the Rocky ‘Adrian?!’ scene was mashed up with a chimp trying to deliver something… Ivan dryly commented that this piece shows us, firstly that italian creativity knows no bounds, but secondly that the biggest area Corbis (and I presume Getty) are dealing with now is celebrity image clearance. He then talked about some of the ‘faces’ Corbis represent. On Albert Einstein he said, and I kid you not, ‘He’s working harder now that he ever did". What!? Solving the fundamental nature of the mechanics of space-time and leaving a lasting legacy upon which others are still building or selling computers? (And I say this as an Apple fan). For an interesting take on the use of Albert Einstein’s image, see this tale.

He then showed three images, one of Sydney Harbour Bridge with the Olympic Rings, one of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, and one of the Eiffel Tower. The IOC are very protective of ‘the rings’ and are highly unlikely to let them be used on a product that isn’t an IOC sponsor. The Guggenheim, which I visited recently, is also protective of it’s image, and any company seeking commercial use is asked to become a museum sponsor. Finally the the owners of the Eiffel Tower are famous for their protection of their image, so much so that when the city of Paris took back the right to use the image during the day, SNTE copyrighted all shots of it in the evening as they’d added a ‘distinctive’ lighting display. (see here for more details). This was to illustrate the point that buildings can sometimes have clearance rights. Next up he showed an image of a professional golfer on a course making a winning put. He then asked how many clearance issues the audience thought there might be? The answer turned out to be nine. The player, his club maker, Ford, – who sponsored his shirt, the course owners themselves, the people in the background etc. When your business is rights clearance, you naturally want to obfuscate the situation and present yourself as the solution.

This point was addressed by the next speaker, Dominic Young, from News International. He talked about how they use over 250,000 pictures from over 5000 suppliers and how a huge chunk of their budget, perhaps even a quarter, goes on admin. He summed up the newspaper process thus ‘We have an idea, we want to do it, print 3-million copies and put them out on the street 30 minutes later’. He went on to to counterpoint Ivan’s view, saying that you shouldn’t need to clear all this stuff to to make content, though a bit o googling reveals NI trying very hard to protect their own content recently (here). He ended with ‘is there room for a rethink’.

The final seminar was Seminar 6: Adapt and Survive: Challenges for the content industry. Featuring an old work mate, Tom Loosemore, with Lisa Wren from Pearson Education and Daniel Harris, founder of the ‘Lost’ style sounding Kendra Initiative. It was chaired by Tom Morgan from the NPG. Wren kicked off first. She talked about how new media was blowing apart traditional models. For example, the way in which images are costed has totally changed – size, print run, does a thumbnail cost less that the image it pops up? Does that count as two uses or a reuse? She talked about how Pearson had paid in some cases three times for the same image at different times for use it books, CD-ROMs, and a website. Which doesn’t sound good business practice to me.

Dan then went off on one talking about visual search or something. Then Tom came in with the key message ‘you don’t add value through scarcity’. This was met with a rather telling silence. There was a straw pole taken and maybe a third of the people in the room were in archives. The discussion then moved on to the cost of images. One guy talked about how clients won’t pay high prices anymore, and that the cost is being pushed down and down. To which Tom rejoined, ‘well the cost is coming down’. Later he went on to say ‘You’ve no God given right to earn £300 an image’. Ahhh you should have seen their faces.

Later one he explained that if the there was another Buncefield, or 7/7, that the BBC would be totally overwhelmed with user contributions, that the ‘have your say team’ for BBC News numbers what, 10+ people, they would just not be able to process all that information. They would have to use the processing power of the audience to let the key things float to the top.

There was this funny atmosphere in the room, it was as if people knew what was being said was true, and most acknowledged it, but they didn’t want to believe it. They all thought that there must be a way out. There were two mature ladies (Hope they don’t mind me saying that, one admitted to the room, she was in her late 50s) who ran a picture library, one voiced the idea that eventually, when things ‘settle down’ the archivist or specialist knowledge holder, would once again become valuable, that they would be a ‘trusted source’. And that is probably exactly what Encyclopedia Britannica said a couple of years back. The other woman said, ‘we’re just like blacksmiths and wheelwrights now’ but those two trades evolved… We’ll see.

In conclusion, here’s what I think.

1. Kudos not Cash: Institutions and media outlets can now look at alternate sources for content: users. People love seeing their name in the byline. Now it’s no good being loved by everyone with nothing in the fridge. But as one of the old ladies say to me afterwards ‘I used to have the only images of wild Polar Bears in Western Europe, EVERYBODY CAME TO ME!’ – them days are gone. There may even be a return to the idea of bartering. One idea I had at Channel 4 was to give away VIP credits to 4oD content rather than cash as ‘payment’ for using someone’s images. It would build loyalty, it would strengthen the brand, and keep the relationship solely between C4 and our audience.

2. Rights: I asked the the guys from seminar 5 about creative commons, they didn’t seem to have heard of it. Dom Young talked about a rival system but I can’t remember the name. I think CC has the potential to sneak under the nose of the industry that is just getting round to the idea of micro payments, and clinging to the cherished idea of RM. Why 1,600+ photos of London buses cleared for commercial use on Flickr. 1,800+ tagged ‘Poker’, that’s got to affect company’s like -‘the most comprehensive collection of gaming images in the world’. I was going to find a poker image from them and compare it to a flickr one, but I can’t even be bothered to register, because…

3. Search: …I should be able to search across multiple datasets. We need to open up the dark archives, some tiny fraction of the World’s data is online. One attendee complained that they’ve had to re-scan everything from only a few years ago, as the technology has improved so much, ‘this costs money’ say the picture libraries… and it does. But so does keeping not digital stuff on the shelf turning to vinegar.

3. The rise of the ultra-niche: Channel 4’s target audience is 16-34, they’re into a myriad of different things. Take music for example, Getty or whoever are not gonna send some fat fuck old Dad of two with a D200 to some secret small time boy band gig. And if they did, is what they shoot really going to capture the essence of the event for that particular market? Is it worth it? It is to the kids. Sure there’s young photographers around, but look at the line up of most paps.

4. The Gentleman Amateur: Photography will return, in part at least, to the world of the Gentleman Amateur (which is where it started with Fox-Talbot) Firstly the technology is there – DSLR’s are peanuts and everyone has a camera phone. Secondly, the distribution method’s now there with the growth of photo-sharing sites. Thirdly the rights frameworks is there with CC.

Media outlets better bloody wake up to this because we’re seeing stories ‘in the fly’s eye’ now, there’s not one image anymore, there’s no ‘Guernica’. There’s a multitude of contrasting and conflicting viewpoints from many different angles.

I could eat a horse.

Channel 4, like the BBC and other broadcasters, has a viewer enquiry team who handle calls, letters and emails from members of the public on a variety of issues from “my picture looks funny” to “I can not believe you are going to transmit a programme that endorses the consumption of horsemeat.”.

The horsemeat quote is in relation to a the new series of Gordon Ramsay’s F Word, in which Janet Street-Porter (who let’s face it is a touch equine in appearace) buys some horse meat in France and gallops back to the Cheltenham Festival to set up a catering stand for hungry race goers. It’s part of a strand in the programme where she looks at other sources of food such as goat meat (very popular with Africans and West Indian’s in this country) . Surely we can all see this is publicity stunt surrounding what is actually a very interesting issue. There’s been things like this before, ‘Cooking in the Dangerzone’ had dog, seal, etc. 10 years ago people thought sushi was disgusting, most still do.

There were a handful of other calls on the same subject, and no doubt Channel 4 will get more post-TX. Bare in mind that this hasn’t TX’d yet.. it’s going out on May 22nd I believe. So what people were annoyed about (surprise surprise) is the idea of something that they’ve read in the papers… Metro had it’s usual rehash of the Evening Standard’s piece claiming a ‘new row over Ramsay’s horse BBQ’

Actually Jane Fryer’s piece at least acknowledges the fact that horse meat was regularly eaten in this country until the end of the war. I read somewhere that it was sometimes sold as ‘French Beef’ as us English sure do love a euphemism.

Michele Hanson in ‘Comment is Free’ asks ‘Gordon Ramsay wants us to eat horses. If you must have meat, why not make it greyhound?’ (First catch your greyhound) as well as a ill thought out rant for turning vegetarian.

I’ve eaten horse (on a pizza in Venice). And I’d eat pretty much any other animal too. Hey in Peru they eat guinea pigs – we eat rabbits, who cares, as long as it’s ethically raised, not endangered, tasty and you’re hungry. The British have such an bi-polar relationship with animals, witness the recent Sony Goat debacle where a goat bought from a butchers was used as a prop in a PR launch, and the story was again whipped up by… the Daily Mail. It’s like we’re returning to the Victorian attitudes, where ‘it was incorrect to comment on the food before one, even in praise, on the ground that such remarks would be too naked an expression of ‘animal and sensual gratification’. (source: Drink. By Andrew Barr)

Now if you want to see sensationalist eating of horse flesh in the cheap name of entertainment.. see this section of Fear Factor, where two ladies have to eat cooked horse rectum.And here’s the recipe, thanks internet!

KARTA – horse rectumFrom the Kazakhstan National Cooking Web Page

INGREDIENTS:* 100 g of karta* salt* green pepper or dill to taste

PREPARATION:The thick part of the rectum is washed without removing fat, then carefully turned inside out so that the fat is on the inside. The meat is washed once more and both ends are tied. Karta can also be dried and smoked. To dry it karta is covered with fine salt and kept in a cool place for one or two days, then dried. Karta is smoked over 24 hours, then dried over 2-3 days. After washing it well, karta is then boiled for 2 hours on slow fire. Before serving it is cut into rings and decorated with green pepper or dill.

Yum bring on the Horse Bum!

Maestro vs Cash

London it seems is under the grip of an ad blitz from the Maestro debit card, which we’re told, is The New Cash ™.

I think this campaign is advertising something that few of us really care about, why? Because we nearly all have a cash card able to make debit transactions. It’s like advertising the oxygen in the atmosphere. It’s one of those ubiquitous products that you don’t really choose, they just come with your bank account. Was it Bill Hicks or Jack Dee who the sketch – Customer:’I’ll have a Coke’. Barman:’We’ve only got Pepsi’. Customer:’Whatever’.

I, like most people I imagine, carry around £10 to £20 in cash for small purchases – sandwiches, drinks, gum, etc. And buy everything else – shopping, clothes, books, magazines, tavel card – on a card. It’s this under £20 section of the market, the realm of small change, that the ads are targetting with the promise of a trip to Paris.


‘R.I.50P’.  Not a chance.  Not until paying with a debit/credit card is as easy as a ‘touch here’ Oyster card. The promise of that particular technological marvel crops up from time to time, before the tech hits the skids and it all goes away for another year or so.

Micro payments are something that the banks are keen to do as ‘It is estimated that using cash costs UK banks and retailers up to £4bn a year, so replacing it has the potential to be cheaper and quicker for all concerned.‘ – Yay, cheaper for the banks who made a total of £40bn profit this year. That’s belt tightening.

But post ‘God that’s stupid’, I got to thinking about all those occasions when cash, and more particularly coins, are actually useful. We’ve a strong social history around money, it peforms a lot social functions besides just paying for goods.  So here’s my take on the Maestro Adverts… if you can think of any more, add them in the comment section.

Mastro vs The Tooth-Fairy

Maestro vs Wishing Wells

Maestro vs The Johnny Machine

Maestro vs lots of machines

Maestro vs The Scouts

Meastro vs Kids

maestro vs the homeless

maestro vs refs

Finally, another piece of quality advertising is this…
fish and chips healthy?!

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
May 2007