Well I Never

Seriously?

I learned a few things over the weekend, none of which I really wanted to hear but by way of introduction I'll mention them anyway. First, it was good news following bad when I learned that my dear loyal friend Gurkha, (Black Lab), had suffered a mini stroke but nothing worse. Although a bit lopsided on his pins, (bit like his owner), he ought to be with us for another couple of months at least.

Second and obviously unconnected, a friend told me over dinner that he popped into the  lavatory in the Shangri-La Hotel in the Shard and chanced upon the shocking scene of two men engaged in what the broadsheet court reporters euphemistically term, "a sexual act." Apparently, that sort of thing is not uncommon in what is apparently an architectural gay icon. Mostly won't be going there then.

Third, in a "well I never," moment of disbelief I learned that all manner of drugs are now more freely available than ever and one of the common conduits for transactions are apparently car washes. The patron drives in with fifty quid under the seat and drives out with his cash replaced by the Eastern European car washers with a sachet of Columbian Marching Powder or whatever the required high of the day is. I'll be using the pressure washer at home then.

The Thug Life vid's make the news. Hilarious if Pretty lightweight compared to Spitting Image or Alison Jackson stuff.

You live and learn. Light relief cascaded down then when one of the kids introduced me to a Facebook page called Political Bible. Politicians as a breed have had rather an easy time of it from satirists in recent years, especially since the death of John Fortune in 2013 bringing an end to the Bremner, Bird & Fortune sketches and we haven't seen anything to match Spitting Image in years. Until now.

Pub scene from Bremner, Bird and Fortune's "Last Show before the Recovery". Two old blokes chatting about media trends.

The BBC report that the "Thug Life," videos of political put downs started life in the United States and were first published here on a Facebook page called Lad Bible. All I can tell you is that the thought of carefully orchestrated election spin campaigns careering off their axis and party media advisor's being driven to apoplexy because of some smart kids with a galloping sense of humour and total lack of deference cheers me up no end. Where there is despair, let there be hope.

 

The Dating Game

Like just about everything else, this too has changed.

Talking to the son of a friend the other day, (Crumble Kids wouldn't step near the subject with their father), it seems that the days of boys heading out for an adventurous evening in search of romance have been consigned to the dustbin. Most, if not all assignations now are apparently pre organised on Facebook. That's bad enough but whats worse is the prospective partner will go data mining and in about five minutes have enough material at hand, to make a snap decision as to whether a first date is a go or not.

That's sad because it would invalidate just about all the schemes I came up with to draw myself to the attention of young ladies, mind you, they were pretty rubbish schemes anyway.

The "wander round the Tate gallery looking interesting on a Sunday afternoon," was a total waste of time and which anyway, ended up round the corner in the Cross Keys over a reflective five pints. The landlord, Arthur, at least thought I was interesting. Nor was the "if I splash that girl then jump out of the car, apologise and offer her a lift," a very well thought out gambit. The bodywork repair bill resulting from an angry umbrella wielding lunatic was well outside my contingency planning. 

I wouldn't profess to ever have been a graduate of the Grant-Niven School of Charm but we did have fun. Moreover, the learning about one another over weeks and months, the likes, the dislikes, the moods, the experiences, the disasters was interesting and it kept you on your toes. Having the whole thing compressed into a few bytes of binary and read, absorbed and possibly discarded within a few minutes is I think, somewhat disheartening. 

oh do just fuck off Simpson, supercilious sod

From the users perspective of course, they see it as an opportunity to filter through a much larger catchment, waste less time and optimise their hits. I just think it's bloody sad but the saddest part is anyone not on Facebook is likely to be regarded at first glance a weird person so therefore, anyway fails the first test.

As if all that nonsense wasn't bad enough the earth truly goes spinning off it's axis when we learn from a Martha de Lacey that a "speed dating app is more addictive than crack."  Well Miss de Lacey, I haven't tried either and regard both with equal suspicion. Apparently, you download an app called Tinder, and it discovers other single's within a few minutes of you. The user selects one, pings them and if they accept, having run through the profile, you hook up within a few minutes. 

Miss de Lacey is taking a robust and industrial approach to Tinder having started conversations with 40 men up to the time her article was published. I just think it's sad. Get a life Martha and try the Tate Gallery on Sunday, there might be another chap wandering around looking for a vision to waft in before him. Who knows what you might be missing with your digital guillotine.

Evolution Kills Facebook!

 

There was a full moon last night and as we know, odd things tend to happen around full moons, in this instance we welcome back the very odd, yet strangely likable Benedict Farse with some thoughts on social networking, which coincidentally have a thumping loud resonance with my own views on the wretched things. 

 

"It is widely believed that humans originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago and evolved into full behavioural modernity about 48,000 BC.

This of course is wrong.

Humans have been around for billions of years and have not evolved one bit; they just go from boom to bust, endlessly repeating the same mistakes. They start from scratch gradually inventing things until a handful of psychopathic governments blow everyone up with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Or worse.

The few survivors then repeat the same cycle. The fossil record is littered with examples of this process but is largely ignored by the ‘experts’ whose survival relies on keeping the status quo.

The next wipe-out will be due to the acceleration of social networking. Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter, all have over 100 million users each. In fact the top 16 virtual communities have 4,390,000,000 users. Considering 93% of the world’s population doesn’t yet use social networks, this is truly a mind-boggling schizophrenic figure. 7% of the world’s population on average has 14 different personalities each trying to keep up the pretence of virtual friendships. The proliferation of these sites has only just begun.

When the entire population (approx. 7 billion souls) is signed up to 100 different social networks the world will have a catastrophic identity crisis and no one will know who they are: Am I a top CEO?(LinkedIn), is my band better than U2?* (MySpace), Am I wanted? (Facebook), Why Can’t I Just Shut The Fuck Up? (Twitter), and so on.

Benedict Farse is aware of the problem and is trying to stop Hoffman, Anderson, Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Gates, et al by launching his own social network – FarceBuck.

FarceBuck is more correctly an anti-social networking device. On FarseBuck no one can be your friend, you are alone. The only thing you can do on FarceBuck is to update your status from ‘Poser,’ to ‘Enlightened’. Everyone will be on ‘Poser,’ because to declare oneself enlightened is probably the most poserish thing a person can do, any attempt to change the status will be recognized as the effort of a ‘Poser’ and so the status will automatically be reset to ‘Poser.’

Farse Inc. is also producing a tablet computer to run FarceBuck. The iFarse is a 12foot by 6 foot by 6 foot lump of granite weighing 74,000 llbs (33,000 kilos). Not very portable and utterly useless it encourages the user to stop, sit down, look at its magnificent natural beauty and contemplate the silence.

Eventually the user will realize enlightenment and carve ‘I AM THAT I AM’ in its surface in the ironic font Rockwell Extra Bold.

Benedict fully expects these inventions to go the way of the Betamax, waxed toilet paper, Old English Spangles and Lionel Blair, but hopes the seed of evolution could be planted for the next generation of boom busters."

 

(Benedict will be appearing at a Comedy Night at Below Zero in Mayfair on the 25th October when I and his two other friends will happily part with £3 to watch him).

Gotcha!

 

The howls of indignation about phone hacking and the News of the World emanating from the Outrage Bus parked outside Westminster has, to my ears, a hollow and tinny sound; like the sort of pinging a cheap Chinese watch makes. It's an absolute fact that to the detriment of anything resembling standards in our society the leaders of all parties have for years courted Murdoch and his papers, even to the extent of employing former editors as their spin meisters. Well, Cameron's got a big old septic boil to lance now.

That it took the revelation that a murdered child's mobile telephone was hacked to give Westminster some backbone after years of sycophantic toadying to News International is just profoundly depressing. Perhaps our formally unelected upper chamber was the only constituency in the country which was independently minded enough to stand up to them. Well, they're not around anymore.

Moreover, hacking into bereaved relatives phones leave one wondering if the story can get any worse. Don't worry; it can and very probably will for these vermin know no limits in their pursuit of so called "stories." 

No-one to whom I have talked is in the least surprised by any of this. The general public long since abandoned any confidence in the ability of our tabloid press to lift themselves out of the grimy, manipulative and nasty sewer which they call home. 

Audience participation though will no doubt spike when we get to the point when some of these cornered rats begin to turn on themselves and begin to spill the beans on each other, Westminster and their competitors. It's just a fact that the press always have more stories than they dare publish. None of them have yet gone nuclear but I suspect someone will, "I found Jesus and he led me to the truth.... when I worked at the ........" and so on. 

The broadsheets needn't take on that holier than thou stance either. In "Newspaper Reporters Plumb New Depths," I discussed how reporters from the Mail and Times trawled the Facebook pages of children for gossip and stories. Odd too how the Mirror is strangely quiet; given they were happy to fabricate stories about British soldiers under that supercilious reptile Piers Morgan it's only a matter of time before their name pops up in the frame. I have experience of their reporters door stepping bereaved families; contempt doesn't come close to what I think of them.

However, the deeply troubling aspect of this disgraceful episode is the reprehensible action of a small number of police officers who accepted bribes from journalists. They will be found and they will go to prison, it's as simple as that. We should chuck the editors and journo's in with them and melt the keys.

News International meanwhile is sinking into a world of financial and reputational hurt, Sunday should certainly be interesting. Some people are even wondering if they used the same password for their email as they used for their Myspace and News International accounts, if they had them. News Internationals statement in 2009 in response to police interest reads as if it were penned by Lewis Carrol, "It is untrue that officers found evidence of News Group staff, either themselves or using private investigators, hacking into "thousands" of mobile phones." Well done Hayley Barlow and Alice Macandrew; just oozing journalistic integrity.

It would of course be warming to think that the News of the World will now go into a death spiral and be quickly buried and forgotten forever. It's unlikely, sadly. Never underestimate how low our fellow citizens will go in their happy pursuit of sex and scandal; however fabricated some of it may be.

And the thing that leaves me feeling like my lungs have been ripped out by an 800lb gorilla? The fact that the Guardian has been the only entity to consistently illuminate the wrongdoing and subversive influence of News International. I'll never be able to bring myself to buy it but they do chalk up some good guy points for the stand they've made. 

As a said earlier, the entire debacle is unedifying and profoundly depressing. Lets conclude then with a story which lays the lie of good journalistic practice bare but leaves us with a smile. Over to Uncle Marvo,

"PILOT'S SKILL SAVES PREGNANT WIFE FROM DISASTER

Pilot Philip Foster's skill and training saved his pregnant wife from certain death yesterday when his aircraft's engine failed whilst returning to his home airfield. He averted disaster by landing in a field, avoiding surrounding villages ...

What a hero, eh?

This is the reality.

Philip Foster (the name they used, and nothing like mine) was actually buggering off somewhere else because the weather was nice, rather than returning home, and was skiving off work. The wife at the time was indeed a bit pregnant as I remember, and was reading a book, oblivious to the engine failure which the hero, Marvo, was addressing with what can only be described as the full three degrees of incompetence.

Having looked around for a suitable landing site and found something vaguely greener than most other possibilities, Marvo proceeds to fail to turn off the fuel. He then descends, because this what aircraft do when they have a buggered engine, normally. He fails to apply the flap, then careers into a field of winter barley, about two feet or so higher than the wings, at a rather unusual angle and executes what can only be described as a "crash" which, had it not been for the height of the crop, would have taken out a small village, church and sub post-office.

Marvo then finds the nearest pub and proceeds to drink it dry.

Now, compare that to the MSM article above? Any similarity at all?

No, didn't think so."

 

Newspaper Reporters Plumb New Depths

I've long held the view that Facebook is a car crash waiting to happen for most individuals. It is a minefield of potential embarrassing and career ending entries and posts, perhaps typed in a moment of carefree exuberance but the consequences may last a very long time. Once circulated on the web, it cannot be deleted. Incidents resulting from "fun,"entries on Facebook are legion, not to mention those who have inadvertently ruined job opportunities, relationships and friendships by the liberal use of the keyboard in the heat of the moment. At least you can tear letters up after a moments reflection before you post them. Indeed, I fully intend to be the last man standing without a Facebook account and refuse to subject all of my 5 friends, three of whom have four legs, to my inane musings over Facebook. They can check in here if they wish.

Why? Well, you may as well post your thoughts on the electronic billboards at Piccadilly Circus for all the confidentiality you are assured, no matter what your privacy settings may be. Why take the risk?

Nonetheless, it remains the principal means of communication for youngsters and indeed it has a number of advantages. It is cheap, easy to circulate news amongst their circle of chums, (although why they all seem to have hundreds of so called friends is quite beyond me), and an easy way of circulating updates for school work, school and club sport and so on. It clearly though, harbours a number of menacing threats. Quite apart from the intentionally addictive nature of the thing there are some rather unsavoury characters lurking in the digital shadows.

I recently became aware of an incident at a school in the wider area and of that incident I have no particular view. I was appalled though, not to say outraged to discover that hairy old Fleet Street hacks have been trawling the Facebook pages of children as young as 13 in order to dig up material which they can exploit to bolster their collapsing circulation, and you can interpret that in any way you so wish. I see no difference in these reptiles scrolling through private conversations between kids than I do them rifling through their private diaries, drawers and letters. 

Of course kids, and everyone else for that matter, should never put anything in the least bit sensitive in electronic form and always have their privacy settings set to the maximum possible. The lack of diligence by kids however, does not excuse cynical adults exploiting their lack of care and attention for financial advancement either on behalf of their proprietor or themselves. There is no difference whatsoever between this behaviour and the thief who offers the defence, "the door was open so I walked in and helped myself."

Hiding behind their Freedom of the Press banner these big boys go under the tag, "A Daily Mail Staff Reporter;" cowards. They won't be so big and brave if they come across parents. If they're lucky they might bump into the odd father; if mothers ever get a hold of them they'll be eviscerated.

Politicians, celebs and premiership footballers scream from the rafters if their privacy is invaded. They will readily set free the litigation attack dogs of firms like Schillings, Mishcon de Reya and Herbert Smith to hold back intrusion by Fleet Street. Who though, stands to protect our kids? There isn't one of us who didn't say or do something indiscreet in our teenage years but without permanent stain on our young reputations; why therefore, are we absenting ourselves from our duty of care for this generation and not corralling unscrupulous reporters and their editors into a corner and forcing them by threat of severe sanction into leaving minors alone. 

It's a disgrace and way beyond the bounds of acceptable behaviour commensurate with a civilised and decent society.

Facebook Disconnects

I’ve got bad news for any kids who think that the whole social networking thing is owned by them. It isn’t. The average age of people using these sites is 37 years old and although users of Bebo tend to be somewhat younger, (average age 28), Facebook comes in at a very uncool 38 years old.

Of interest but absolutely no surprise is the news flash that all these sites are used by more women than men. Actually, it’s not of interest; not one tiny bit. I couldn’t care less about who uses bloody Facebook and all the other spawn of the devil social sites that exist. Now Google has launched Buzz it will probably bury the rest anyway but we’re not going to talk about Google’s scary growth and massive influence over everyone’s lives; that’s for another day. No, today we’re going to mallet Facebook.

I’ve long vowed to be the last person in the Galaxy to join Facebook. These days that’s a bit like saying you run over badgers for fun. The mentor of one of the founders of Facebook, one Rene Girard of Stanford University, is a proponent of the behavioural theory mimetic desire which suggests that people are essentially sheep like and will follow one another without much thought. Well, I’m not a bloody sheep and the last reason to do anything is because everyone else is doing it.

Facebook has created one of the most dangerous professional and personal landmines for everyone, especially the young. Reputations can be trashed in an instant, (not to mention houses), potential careers ruined and relationships eviscerated. Get your name in the press, apply for a job, get published and the first place the bloodhounds search is Facebook. Once something is on the net, it’s there forever. Facebook mistakes are all over the web, here are just a few.

It also represents a fantastic databank for the security services. Facebook's most recent round of funding was led by a company called Greylock Venture Capital, who invested $27.5m back in 2005. One of Greylock's senior partners is called Howard Cox who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel. This is the venture-capital wing of the CIA. In 1999 they set up their own venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, which "identifies and partners with companies developing cutting-edge technologies to help deliver these solutions to the Central Intelligence Agency and the broader US Intelligence Community (IC) to further their missions".

Incidentally, following privacy changes late last year, your name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, Friends List, and all the pages you subscribe to are now publicly available information on Facebook. This means everyone on the web can see it; it is searchable. No wonder someone has just hit them with a class action law suit to fight the changes.

It is obviously a fantastically successful company and probably now has a “population,” of more than 350m. I don’t much care about that either though. I’ve got my real friends, modest in number compared to the hundreds that people appear to gather on Facebook, and I’m not much interested in sharing the details of my life with near strangers. In my view, Facebook doesn’t connect people, it disconnects them. It makes it too easy to tick the box marked, “speak to friends,” and little effort is required to make people feel they have large, if illusory, circles of friends.

Well, bollocks to the lot of them. Nothing replaces a face to face chat, a telephone call or a handwritten letter which in itself has become one of the great treats of our age to receive. You mostly won’t be seeing me on Facebook; you might though find me at the Mill Tavern enjoying a real beer with real, laughing and living people. Anyway, real Jedi's don't need the Interweb; we use our quasi-telekinetic power to know what you're thinking.