Tag Archives: Al Jazeera

Tony Blair’s Muslim sister-in-law is performing at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Muslim sister-in-law is performing at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Lauren Booth, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, was a very vocal opponent of the 2003 Iraq War and a supporter of the Stop The War Coalition.

She is performing Accidentally Muslim at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

She trained as an actress, became a journalist and converted to Islam in 2010.

Her father was actor Tony Boothwho became famous as the Left Wing son-in-law of Alf Garnett in BBC TV’s sitcom Till Death Us Do Part.

“Your mother’s maiden name was Pamela Cohen”

Accidentally Muslim is a dramatisation of her 2016 memoir Finding Peace in the Holy Land.


JOHN: Do you still exchange Christmas cards with Tony Blair?

LAUREN: Yes.

JOHN: So you are persona grata…

LAUREN: Ehhh… Well, I think there’s a lot of love in the family.

JOHN: Your mother was Susie Riley née Pamela Cohen. That’s a Jewish name.

LAUREN: Yeah. Her father, my grandfather, was Jewish.

JOHN: Was her mother Jewish?

LAUREN: No.

JOHN: So she’s technically not Jewish.

LAUREN: That’s right.

JOHN: There’s a lot of stuff at the moment about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Can someone be anti-Israel without being anti-Jewish?

LAUREN: I’m not going to go into that, because that’s not in my show.

JOHN: So…?

LAUREN: It’s not the same at all.

JOHN: Why not?

Lauren in Iran with an anti-Zionist Rabbi and Christian priest

LAUREN: Because you can be against a political regime without wishing harm on people who follow a faith. There are Zionists who are not Jewish and it’s the political ideas that people protest against.

JOHN: Why are you an ‘accidental’ Muslim?

LAUREN: Because things kept happening to me that pushed me in one direction until, one day, I pretty much woke up and went: Whaaaaat?? – Oh! OK! Right!

Some people will go and read and study for six years. Other people will just accept a faith. But I was resisting. I was like: Nice food, but no thankyou. And… it just happened.

JOHN: You saw a report on TV in 2000 of a boy who got shot in the Gaza Strip and then you accidentally found yourself in his village.

LAUREN: Yes.

JOHN: Are you Sunni or Shiite?

LAUREN: I just say I am Muslim.

JOHN: Can you be?

LAUREN: You can, because everything is between our hearts and the Creator. I just think it’s really disingenuous and unhelpful to get involved in sectarianism.

JOHN: Don’t people say: “You have to be with us or them”?

LAUREN: Yes, unfortunately that happens and that’s why I don’t go into it.

JOHN: How do you spell the faith? Moslem or Muslim?

LAUREN: Muslim. Like the word mosque. You know the origin? Apparently the colonial troops in India described the people flocking to their religious building as mosquitos – that eeeee sound. There were thousands of them and you didn’t want them, so that’s why it’s ‘mosque’. Most Muslims refer to it as ‘masjid’.

Young Sarah Jane later Lauren Booth

JOHN: You were born Sarah Jane Booth. So where did ‘Lauren’ come from?

LAUREN: It’s an Equity name. There was already an actress called Sarah Jane Booth, my height, brown hair, brown eyes, born the same year.

JOHN: That is rather creepy. You have a doppelgänger!

(LAUREN HUMS THE THEME TO THE TWILIGHT ZONE)

LAUREN: I just plucked ‘Lauren’ out of the air.

JOHN: Accidentally Muslim is billed as a play in the Theatre section of the Edinburgh Fringe Programme. Is it a play or a monologue?

LAUREN: A monologue.

JOHN: So is it a monologue about how we should all become Muslims?

LAUREN: Absolutely not.

JOHN: But it’s going to be a terribly serious talk about death, destruction and…

LAUREN: Well, I’ve just come out of rehearsals for it and we’ve been roaring with laughter for 30 minutes. It has some real light and shade in it.

JOHN: You have a director for the show. You started as an actress, then became a journalist. You can write and you can act. Why do you need a director?

LAUREN: It would have been such an act of arrogance to have come back after 26 years of not being on the stage as an actor and say: “I can do this on my own!”… It would have been a catastrophe. I wanted to dramatise the story and make it ‘live’. It has a soundscape and visuals and lighting cues and I play twelve characters. So it’s very much not a lecture.

JOHN: So it’s not a monologue: it IS more of a play.

LAUREN: Is it a one woman dramatisation? Does that work? One of the characters I play is Billy Connolly.

One of the 12 characters Lauren will play (Photograph by Eva Rinaldi)

JOHN: If you have to cover your head for religious reasons and you don’t have a beard, how are you going to do that?

LAUREN: You’ll have to see the play to find out.

JOHN: Good PR!… So the play is a coming-together of your skills as an actress, journalist, world traveller…?

LAUREN: You know, going through these rehearsals, it’s a story of somebody who’s by chance at certain pivotal moments in history and has certain realisations along the way. It covers 40 years, 12 characters, 2 faiths and 2 or 3 continents.

JOHN: Which continent is the Middle East in?

LAUREN: It’s a totally Orientalist term. The Orientalists said Britain is the middle of the world and everything else (beyond the English Channel) is East, so it is the Middle of the East.

JOHN: It’s certainly not Africa; it’s certainly not Europe; it’s not Asia.

LAUREN: What about calling it Middle Earth?

JOHN: We would have to worry about the Nazgûl coming in. Talking of which, among others, you wrote for the New Statesman AND for the Mail on Sunday. There’s a – eh – mixture of politics in there.

LAUREN: Well, my politics was always the same. I like to tell myself that the Right Wing paid for my Left Wing pretensions. But I don’t know if ethically, looking back, that really works. Can you take quite so much money off Associated Newspapers and still be Left Wing? That’s up for debate. But I wrote what I wanted. They did give me free rein and I did get some good stories that I wanted in because I used to stand-in for Suzanne Moore: hardly a bastion of the Right.

I described doing that kind of job as being an aquifer for hatred for Middle England.

JOHN: …and at the New Statesman? The type of stuff you were writing was…?

LAUREN: I would call myself  “a chronicler of London society” at that time.

The Daily Mail’s photo of Lauren with her dad Tony Booth

JOHN: Someone said, when you converted, you had moved “from hedonism to hajj”. Your dad, actor Tony Booth, was very Bohemian.

LAUREN: Well, we are all products of our childhood and my dad taught me an awful lot. He taught me how to roll a spliff that would look like a cigarette.

JOHN: Remembered fondly.

LAUREN: Absolutely.

JOHN: You’ve worked for Press TV AND Al Jazeera. Press TV? That’s pure propaganda…

LAUREN: It was the only place to get out some really good information about Palestine.

JOHN: You spend a lot of time in the Middle East?

LAUREN: I haven’t been for five years. I’m hoping to go back to Qatar. I can’t really get into Gaza at the moment. The last time I went through Israel was 2009. The problem with getting into Gaza is you can’t get in through Egypt. You have to go in through Israel.

JOHN: Do you personally, specifically have problems getting into Israel?

LAUREN: I haven’t so far.

JOHN: You were on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2006. Why did you do that?

LAUREN: Because it was adventure. The only thing that scared me was bungee jumping and I did three… Three!

JOHN: The viewers voted that you had to?

LAUREN: Yeah.

JOHN: You are always going to be tarred with Tony Blair… but the good side is you will always get coverage out of it.

LAUREN: It’s not about coverage. I have no issue with it having been a door-opener. At certain times, you have to say: That door was absolutely opened because of it. What you do when you get inside, though, is what defines you. So I am very grateful for that and I hope I’ve used it for good and made some points that needed to be made and told stories for people who don’t normally get their stories told.

JOHN: I was going to say it’s a cross you have to bear. But I suppose it’s a crescent you have to bear.

LAUREN: Can I have that for the play?

JOHN: It’s yours.

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Political gossip. Mick Jagger fondled by MP. Cabinet Minister thrown out of pub

In Sohemia last night: Mark Seddon (left) and Martin Rowson

In Sohemia last night: Mark Seddon (left) and Martin Rowson

I went to the Sohemian Society in London last night to hear about “Gay Hussar Nights”.

The evening was billed as two insiders’ journeys through Bollinger Bolshevism with the Rabelaisian Left: “Former Tribune editor and Labour Party National Executive member, turned Al Jazeera TV correspondent Mark Seddon and multi award-winning cartoonist Martin Rowson will chew the cud and spit it all out for your delectation in an evening of downright irreverence and much jocularity all laced through with a healthy contempt for the British political and media establishment.”

And so, indeed, it turned out.

The Gay Hussar is a famed Soho pub that, in pre-Blair days, was the haunt of left wing journalists and politicians. In the 1960s, the owner threw prominent Labour Party politician George Brown out of the building when, uninvited, he started to feel-up the woman sitting next to him – which was said last night to be “the only known case of a serving Foreign Secretary being thrown out for being drunk and disorderly”.

There were also stories about “the great left wing Labour MP and serial fellationist Tom Driberg” – a gay friend of gangsters the Kray Brothers and rumoured to be a Soviet agent via the Czech intelligence service.

“When Tom got very excited about the swinging sixties,” Martin Rowson said last night, “he tried to entice Mick Jagger to stand as a Labour MP and had dinner with him in the Gay Hussar. Everything was going swimmingly well until he started fondling Mick’s knee and rather blew it, as it were.”

There were two other people at that dinner: Mick’s girlfriend Marianne Faithfull and (the poet) W.H.Auden. While Tom and Mick were talking about Labour Party politics and the coming revolution, W.H.Auden asked Marianne:

Tell me. Have you ever smuggled drugs into the country?”

To which Marianne mumbled a reply. 

“Ever take them up the arse?” asked W.H.Auden

The evening broke up shortly afterwards.

Mark Seddon is a man who obviously shares my taste for the bizarre as, last night, he recommended people should take holidays in the people’s paradise that is North Korea – he has been there seven or eight times. He also told another story about George Brown.

The esteemed Labour politician was at a ball in Lima, Peru. With music playing and, having had quite a few drinks, George Brown was feeling ‘tired and emotional’ and went up to a vision of loveliness in a long gown, saying:

“Beautiful, beautiful lady in the red dress, can I have this next dance?”

To which the reply came: “Certainly not. This is the Peruvian national anthem… and I am the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima.”

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Why do BBC, ITV and Sky News not report what is happening in the world?

(This piece also appeared in the Huffington Post and on Indian news site WSN)

Blindfolded to what happens elsewhere

BBC, ITV and Sky TV’s target audience in their news reports

America is often criticised for being insular.

It was said that, in the build-up to the Gulf War, some people in the southern states – genuinely – were nervous because they believed the war would be happening in the Gulf of Mexico.

The blame for Americans’ insularity is usually put on US TV News which, it is said, reports almost entirely internal US stories.

But the words pot, kettle and black leap to mind.

Two people from Ireland were staying with me last week.

They complained that, on Irish television, the RTÉ news reports were almost entirely inward-looking reports about things happening in Ireland. One or two news items from the UK might be tacked-on briefly at the end.

But it is the same in the UK.

Blinkered, insular news reporting. We hear very little about what is happening in the outside world. One school shooting in the US is not wide world reporting.

I worked for 25 years or so in television, mostly in Entertainment but, early on, I was a Researcher on the BBC’s start-up teletext service CEEFAX, part of BBC TV News. This meant, in effect, being a cheap Sub Editor and, during the real Sub Editor meal breaks, being the person who, unsupervised, decided what went out.

We had Reuters and Press Association teleprinters spewing news in to us all the time and I remember one day stories coming in about massed tank battles involving (it was said) Soviet troops in Ethiopia or, I suppose, it was probably Eritrea. I did not report these on CEEFAX because the major full-scale war had been going on for months and had never been in the headlines.

In the same way, much later, the war in Liberia was almost never reported on British TV news because it went on for so long, because there were no TV reporters out there and because it overlapped with the First Gulf War.

I was thinking about this last night when I was watching vivid Al Jazeera reports on the civil war in Syria.

On the BBC TV News programmes last night – zilch, nothing, nada. Syria crops up occasionally but not regularly.

You would have thought that, with rolling 24-hour news channels, we would be getting more news, but we simply get the same news repeated every 15 minutes.

In a mainstream half hour BBC1 or ITV1 or Sky news broadcast we get, perhaps five news stories reported. Almost all are domestic UK stories.

Africa and Asia go virtually unreported.

‘Extended’ news coverage means Europe and the US.

To get regular news on Africa, Asia and Australasia, you have to watch Al Jazeera.

There is no reason why the BBC or ITN or Sky could not have a 15 minute slot every hour in which they report genuine World News. Quantity, in this case, is more important than in-depth reports.

Of course, the demand for what is happening in South America or South East Asia is not as high – unless there is a visually exciting tsunami.

I remember talking to a reporter on Granada TV’s World in Action programme years ago. He had risked his life in Nicaragua and Venezuela with bullets whizzing over his head and death threats from the government. But, he said, he knew that when his reports were networked on World in Action, they would get relatively low viewing figures… Whereas a relatively easy-to-make programme on the NHS or UK schools would get much, much higher viewing figures because those subjects touched people’s lives.

That is no reason, though, for not reporting what happens in the world.

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Edinburgh Fringe news: cookies, gays, Jews & will Guardian newspaper close?

It is not just lines of coke confusing life at Edinburgh Fringe

Being at the Edinburgh Fringe can be a bit like the long-gestating new tram system: no-one knows what’s going on. It is like being in a self-contained bubble. The outside world disappears into mist. All the moreso this year as BBC TV News appears to have given up reporting most news except the Olympics. I have been watching Al Jazeera and, superb as they are, they tend not to report too much UK news trivia.

I completely missed the news that London’s Time Out listings magazine announced last week that it is going to become a free publication.

We live – as the Chinese curse goes – in interesting times.

Someone told me this morning that the Guardian is currently selling so few copies per day of its print edition that Alan Rusbridger, the editor, is no longer committed to the print edition and is inclined to cease publication of the printed paper within a year, relying on the millions who access it online. Even now, there is more Guardian content free to access online than in the pay-to-read print newspaper. So why buy it?

Is this true or is it gossip or is it spin?

It is not happening inside the Fringe bubble in Edinburgh in the next three weeks. So who cares?

Meanwhile, Fringe life continues apace. After I saw Half Past Bitch at the Hive yesterday afternoon, its co-star Daphna Baram told me:

Daphna Baram shares cookies yesterday

“Last night I got on a taxi at 5.00am. The driver immediately asks me if I am a comedian and took an interest in my shows. He was in his 50s and he said he was a Scottish Moroccan. I told him that Mina Znaidi, my partner in Half Past Bitch, is Moroccan. He looked at her photo on the flyer and said She’s a good looking woman. Is she good?

“I embarked in praise of Mina’s comedic mirth but he dismissed it all, saying By ‘Is she good’ I mean does she do as she’s told? I was quite shocked and very drunk but not enough to realise that it would probably not be a good idea to quote back at him Mina’s joke: I was raised to be an obedient girl; I never say no to anal… You don’t want to know his reaction.”

Daphna and Mina’s show has a good selling point for would-be punters. They are given free cookies when they come into the room at The Hive. “Our slogan,” says Daphna, “is Free comedy. Free cookies. Free shelter from the rain. Three for the price of none.”

The downside is that the show is only on until Friday.

Wedding Bells? David Mills and Daphna Baram? No.

I stayed on at the Hive yesterday afternoon to see David Mills’ show David Mills is Smart Casual – Free.

“How do you stay stylish in this weather?” I asked David.

“Stay indoors,” he replied.

“I’m the best-dressed female comic in Edinburgh,” Daphna Baram said as she left. “And David’s the best-dressed male comic.”

“I don’t want to be in this competition,” said David. “This is the Fringe. How can you compete with half-naked teenagers doing an all-male version of The Diary of Anne Frank in a sweaty basement?”

“What was that I saw last year on your chat show with Scott Capurro?” I asked. “I seem to remember semi-naked men.”

David celling his show at The Hive

“It was the all-male version of Sweet Charity,” David reminded me.

“Ah, yes!” I said. “Did you enjoy that?”

“Well, I enjoyed watching (chat show guest) Simon Callow try not to pop a boner.”

“Can I say that in my blog?” I asked. “Has Simon Callow come out?”

“Out, John? He was never in!. What are you? Nuts?”

“Well, I don’t follow the ins and outs of gay life,” I said defensively. “Is your show this year your first solo Fringe show?”

“Yes,” said David, “it’s me on a stool looking great talking for laughs. Is your eternally-un-named friend up in Edinburgh with you?”

“No,” I said. “She doesn’t fancy the crowds and the thought of being with comedians en masse talking about themselves.”

“Well,” said David, “it is like being a therapist because it’s just one clown after another talking about themselves. Me too.”

“I’m sure you enjoy it.”

“Are you kidding? It’s a nightmare. This is a complete nightmare. When I do my show on the continent, it’s mostly non-verbal.”

“Do you?” I said, amazed, “But you’re not a non-verbal comedian. You…”

“I was joking, John,” said David. “It was a joke.”

“I really shouldn’t mix with comedians, should I?” I said. “You’re like Dave Allen; very verbal. Including the chair. I guess you never saw Dave Allen in the US?”

Dave Allen – an influence in the US?

“Yeah,” said David. “They used to show Dave Allen on Public Television when I was growing up in Pennsylvania before we moved to the West Coast and I would sit there literally going Who is this old freak with half a finger, drinking and sitting on a stool? I couldn’t understand most of it because the accent was too thick. But the style of it was so great. It was really compelling.”

“Did he actually inspire you?” I asked. “I want to sit on a stool and do that sort of stuff?

“Well,” said David. “I saw it as a kid and many years passed and I was doing comedy and I did a bit of cabaret, sitting on a stool and then it came back to me and I Googled it and found the name Dave Allen and thought That’s it! That’s the guy! and I started watching and thought That’s it! almost like I had retained it in my mind without remembering his name.”

“I suppose,” I said, “that Dave Allen was really doing a 1930s American cabaret format.”

“Exactly!” said David. “I knew that style already from the US scene, but Dave Allen really crystallised it although American cabaret is very different from British cabaret. British cabaret has that end-of-the-pier and music hall element. American cabaret is literally sat-on-a-stool, singing show tunes, bantering with the audience. I was doing that, getting nowhere and simply cut the piano player.”

David will be singing on my two hour Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on 24th August.

“The song I’m thinking of singing on your show,” David told me, “isn’t really a comedy song.”

“I’ll have to hear it,” I said. “But variation is good. If I put it after or before slapstick it might work.”

David’s show at The Hive was followed by one of Lewis Schaffer’s two daily Fringe shows. I made my excuses and left (look, I know Lewis – and The Scotsman gave him a 4-star review today – he doesn’t need me). On the way out, bumped into my Facebook friend Laura Levites. She told me that she and Lewis both came from Great Neck in New York.

Lewis tells me Great Neck is “an iconic location for rich, flashy, post-poor Jews and a smattering of the failed Jews”.

“It sounds like an interesting blog if I can get you and Laura together,” I said.

“I just want to stand next to her,” said Lewis.

Lewis Schaffer counts one of his plates

Entirely coincidentally, through six degrees of accident, my evening was rounded-off by a meal with Lewis Schaffer (an American living in England), Spring Day (an American living in Japan) and Billy Watson (a Scot living in Turkey). That epitomises the Edinburgh Fringe.

At the end of the meal, we divided the cost and Lewis decided to collect our notes and pay the £50 bill with his small change.

This passes for normal during the Edinburgh Fringe.

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The tsunami of anarchy which will be released by the death of newspapers

Last night, I went to the Fulbright Lecture at the British Library, given by the Financial Times’ editor Lionel Barber.

The subject was “Adapt or Die: The Future of News and Newspapers in the Digital Revolution”.

In 2009, more than one hundred US newspapers closed down and, in 2007-2009, newspaper advertising revenue fell by 10% in Germany, 21% in the UK and 30% in the US. Circulations for printed newspapers are falling like lemmings as readers and advertisers move online.

One saving thought seems to be that people may be prepared to pay for comment and analysis, though probably not for general news. The Financial Times is in the fortunate position of being a niche newspaper. It mostly reports on a specific subject area where people are prepared to pay for analysis, comment and specialised reports.

But newspapers in general have not been delivering news for the last 50 years.

I am ancient enough to have been at college doing Communication Studies (radio, TV, journalism, advertising) when the first issue of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun was published.

The guy who supervised the journalism part of our course was the Production Editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. On the morning the first edition of the new Sun was published, he went through it page-by-page with us, pointing out that all the main stories were not News as such: they had all been reported in the previous evening’s TV news or were, in some way re-heated old news.

After that, I paid closer attention to what was actually printed in newspapers and developed my taste for the Daily Telegraph. If you look at most newspapers, you can actually visually see that they are magazines. The Guardian is a prime example. Look at its news pages and you see big rectangular blocks of text which analyse and/or give insight into news stories. But they are almost never reporting new News.

The Daily Telegraph has lots of columns with different little inches of different stories, most of which have not been included in the always superficial TV and radio news. I blogged a couple of months ago about how I once met a Daily Telegraph sub-editor at a party who hated working at the paper for exactly the same reason I loved reading it. People would yell across the room at him: “Give me a three-inch story!” not caring what the actual story was.

And, except at election times, the Daily Telegraph tends to keep the old-fashioned division between news and comment (which most US newspapers also maintain).

Newspaper and TV News editors used to be – and still are – gatekeepers to what is considered news. But, with the internet, power has in theory moved from publisher to reader.

In fact, forget gatekeepers. Forget gates. Think dams. One gigantic dam behind which is all the water in the world.

In the past, newspaper and TV News editors were in charge of dams which kept most of the water behind their dams and let a few selected trickles through. Now the mother of all dams is opening and uncontrolled, uncontrollable amounts of information are going to be unleashed not just day-by-day but second-by-second.

In my erstwhile youth, if you wanted to find out facts, you had to go to a library. Librarians and the publishers of encyclopaedias were the damkeepers of knowledge. Now Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg and their ilk are opening the dams which should result in almost all (and, in theory all) current and past knowledge being available instantly anywhere in the world.

If you are sitting on a camel in the middle of the Australian desert outside Alice Springs then, on a 3G device, you are now able to instantly find out which films are being screened at all the cinemas in Glasgow tonight or which dates the Emperor Caligula ruled Rome – and you can download and read a copy of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield or Homer’s Iliad.

In future, it seems, all news will be available to everyone pretty-much instantly via Twitter, Facebook and every other social network known and as yet unknown to man and woman. The first news of the US attack on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May came on Twitter.

What will be needed is what, last night, Lionel Barber was understandably most scathing about – so-called news aggregators like The Huffington Post (which sometimes carries my blogs), The Drudge ReportThe Daily Beast and even Gawker, whose slogan is “Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news”. At the moment, these (depending on your viewpoint) could be said to pirate other news sources and regurgitate the selected news.

The Financial Times currently employs 130 foreign correspondents to collect and interpret news abroad. What will be needed in future, I presume, is some way of analysing, interpreting and compacting news from several hundred million correspondents including the blogosphere.

Newspapers may become aggregators.

No, I have no idea how or if that will happen.

And I have no idea what will happen.

But traditional newspapers were dead 50 years ago; they just did not know it.

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The printed book is dead… and libraries… and newspapers… but literacy lives on my iPad!

I was in the Apple Store in Regent Street last week and bumped into the multi-talented transsexual comic Shelley Cooper, who has almost finished writing her autobiography – now THAT should be a cracking read. She is thinking of publishing it online via a print-on-demand site.

I am also thinking about re-publishing the late comedian Malcolm Hardee‘s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake as an online print-on-demand book. The costs are so low as to be negligible and the percentages to the writer are much higher – on a traditionally printed paperback book the author usually only gets 7.5% of the cover price. People can buy a print-on-demand book as a well-produced traditional paperback or download it from iTunes or Amazon.

Traditional paper books and physical libraries in towns and cities will soon be dead. A book is not bought because it is an object, it is bought an experience or for information. Content is king. The printed word is not dying – it is thriving on Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, mobile phone texting, everywhere. But the printed book will die.

The husband of a friend of mine is the straightest person I know. For many years, he never watched ITV – only BBC TV -because ITV was not respectable, merely a young whippersnapper upstart TV station. Yet he is now thinking of investing in an iPad or the duller and much more limited Kindle because, that way, he could take a whole library of books with him on holiday and read anything he likes when he gets there.

Ultimately, Project Gutenberg and its ilk will put almost all out-of-copyright fiction online; and Wikipedia and Google and the web in general give ultimately unlimited access to known facts. Yes, there are old books, newspapers and magazines with content which cannot be accessed online, but only because they have not yet been digitised.

Online publishers have no reason to ever declare any new ‘book’ out-of-print because the online file can remain in cyberspace forever at no extra production cost. The traditional paper book is dead and so are traditional physical libraries.

A library is just a building to keep books in. Unless they re-invent themselves as leisure centres for the printed word and computer gaming, they will soon be dead too.

What is worrying the printed media industry more immediately, of course, is what is happening and what will happen to newspapers, whose printed, paid-for editions are sliding down a seemingly bottomless pit in circulation terms.

Newspapers were always printing yesterday’s news but there used to be no alternative.

But why should I buy a print newspaper carrying out-of-date news when I can watch live street demonstrations in Cairo or around the Middle East on 24-hour live TV news channels? Why should I buy a UK newspaper when I can read other UK news sources free online and get access to Australian, Chinese, Russian and US print sources free online? AND watch Al Jazeera, BBC TV News, Sky News, Press TV from Tehran or, god forbid, the terminally dull Russia Today channel direct from Moscow?

On my iPad, I have apps giving me access to the Huffington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, the Straits Times and the Moscow Times. I can access a wider variety of sources worldwide via my Fluent News, Pulse News and Stuff apps. I get daily news update e-mails from The Scotsman and from China Daily.

Why should  buy a newspaper except for a free DVD?

On the other hand, Rupert Murdoch’s launch less than a couple of weeks ago of his iPad-only newspaper The Daily is interesting, though it is only available le in the US at the moment. If, as rumours say, he really does price a future full UK daily electronic newspaper automatically delivered to you every morning at a cost of only 79p per week…

Well, even I might be tempted… but it’s still going go be news I can get elsewhere for free.

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World War 3, dead Australians, America’s wars, Randy Newman and God’s plan

Because the world, like the cafe in the famous Monty Python sketch, is full of spam, my preferences on this blog are set up so that I have to approve all comments before they appear.

When I woke up this morning, I was notified of a new comment on my blog of yesterday about Painting a New York fart, Tony Blair and Jo Brand. I would have approved the new comment this morning, but it seems to have been un-submitted. This is very sad. It told me:

“The crazy part is, World War 3 is not the most Earth shaking event to come within the next 4 years, The Pole Shift will cause even more damage and destruction, but in the case of the Pole Shift it will be for a Good cause with Divine purpose and for humankind to experience the 1,000 years of peace it has been promised for decades.”

Now, I watch the BBC News channel, Sky News and Al Jazeera regularly, some might say addictively, but this particular news had passed me by and I’m all for learning about new things and hearing original thought.

The comment came with a link to a webpage and perhaps may not be unconnected to the fact my Twitter account is now being followed by @ProjectJesus, the “Global Christian Community Appeal” which is “seeking one million fellow Christians to join (them) in a 21st century pilgrimage for Jesus.”

I presume @ProjectJesus is the same as www.projectjesus.com unless there are two competing projects – always a possibility as divine multi-tasking is not unknown.

I’m saddened this morning’s new comment was un-submitted not just because I enjoy original thinking, but because the concept of World War 3 is quite interesting. I think we may not know it has started until after it has finished.

The 1914-1918 war was originally called The Great War. (Note to Americans: that’s the 1917-1918 War, as far as you are concerned.)

So at what point did The Great War start being called World War 1?

Was it before or after the 1939-1945 war started? (Note to Americans: that’s the 1941-1945 War, as far as you are concerned.)

Surely you could not have had a so-called World War 1 until you had a World War 2… and it is only journalists, historians or political speechwriters who can declare World War 3 has started or happened.

Perhaps World War 3 started on 11th September 2001 when the World Trade Center was attacked. Good ol’ George W Bush (never primarily known as a great linguist) decided that this had precipitated what he called The War on Terror. He could just as easily have said it had started World War 3, though the economic effect of that name on stock markets around the world might not have been too good.

The so-called War on Terror and its ramifications and outbursts over the last ten years have definitely been worldwide. We may already be living through the mid-point of World War 3. Perhaps we won’t know until some clever historian or influential TV pundit  decides to re-name The War on Terror as World War 3, just as The Great War was re-named World War 1.

But, getting back to World War 3 Predictions, the web page says – without explanation – that World War 3 “would result in countries like Australia almost getting wiped out from the face of the Earth”.

This seems a little harsh. Even Randy Newman in his wonderful song Political Science in which he wants to nuke all countries which hate America, writes:

We’ll save Australia
Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo
We’ll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin’ too

What has poor Australia done to get wiped off the map in World War 3?

I think we should be told.

I want to hear more.

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