Tag Archives: internet

Facebook? – One reader says: “Alas the only solution to this is (literal) civil war”

On 25th April this year, I wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek blog entitled:

ARE THE FACEBOOK POLICE ABOUT TO BAN ME BECAUSE OF MY SEXUALLY RISQUÉ NAME?

Today it received a reader comment from someone calling himself or herself or ‘they’selves ‘Republican Realism’ which I print in its entirety below.

I am keeping schtum…


(Photograph by Vlad Tchompalov via UnSplash)

Alas the only solution to this is (literal) civil war. In every country. Scorching the earth clean of, firstly, those who believe in copyright – meaning those who believe journalism, music, “design” or any form of “talk” constitutes actual productive “work” (it doesn’t). And secondly those who believe that there is any such thing as an original thought (there isn’t). And war on those who believe in such crimes against logic and reality itself as anti-“hate speech” laws, laws that conflate fiction/hypothesis with fact (not just the “cartoon porn laws” but all laws pertaining to threats and “conspiracies”) and all those who believe that their interpretations of anything anyone “communicates” (sic) invalidate the “communicator”‘s own intentions. Fact: Your feelings exist only in your own head. Therefore they don’t exist and are no-one else’s business. But this cannot be explained to people who are incapable of rational perception. They are an intractable threat to the sane, the competent, And you know what we do to intractable threats. Ownership is inherently abusive, and governance inherently destructive. Alas, governance cannot be transcended. To turn the other cheek is to be complicit.


Schtum. That’s what I am keeping.

 

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The continuing fascination with suicide

suicideblogI have written this blog since May 2010 and I have a rough idea how the hits on it work.

On the day I post a blog, it gets big hits.

Slightly less hits the next day.

By the third day, the hits have pretty much stopped.

After that, pretty much – nothing.

Only rare, sporadic hits.

So I find it interesting that, almost every day, one particular blog I wrote pretty much two years ago – on 15th January 2015 – is still getting daily hits.

Not big hits in any way. Small numbers. But steady hits.

The blog was headlined:

THE PRACTICALITIES OF PUTTING YOUR HEAD IN A GAS OVEN: MY 2nd SUICIDE ATTEMPT

These are the figures for hits over the last fortnight. They seem fairly steady. The fact there are any at all for a two-year-old blog is extraordinary. The fact that they are regular and fairly steady is interesting.

Sunday 20th – 38
Monday 21st – 23
Tuesday 22nd – 22
Wednesday 23rd – 12
Thursday 24th – 15
Friday 25th – 26
Saturday 26th – 29
Sunday 27th – 38
Monday 28th – 46
Tuesday 29th – 28
Wednesday 30th – 34
Thursday 1st – 68
Friday 2nd – 59
Yesterday – 39

I have no idea what this means sociologically, but it must mean something.

The blog is HERE.

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Filed under Blogs, Suicide

Missing blogs, John Gielgud’s gay porn, James Bond’s toilet and Tony Hancock

John fleming - shocked look

Typical reaction to WordPress’ efficiency

My daily blog has not appeared for a couple of days because WordPress, which hosts it, had some technical problem which meant it was impossible for me to save or post anything. And, even if you pay them, they do not provide Support – you have to post on user forums with no guarantee of any response from anyone.

Giving them grief on Twitter seemed to have some slight effect – eventually. To a partial extent. I got this message:

Let us know if we can help with anything! Here’s how to export your content and take it with you.

I replied:

It might have been useful if WordPress could have sorted out the technical problem which means I cannot post any blogs. I might have thought WordPress would be more concerned with their software not working rather than helping people to leave.

After WordPress getting more Twitter and Reddit grief orchestrated by this blog’s South Coast correspondent, Sandra Smith, I got some reaction from a WordPress ‘staff’ member (whom you apparently can’t contact normally) – which was minimal and apparently transient, as I have heard no more from him.

But, about three hours later, when I tried again, the problem had disappeared. I had changed and done nothing. So I can only assume WordPress corrected the fault and never bothered to tell me.

As Facebook Friend Alias Robert Cummins succinctly put it: WordPress is amazingly shit, in all sorts of tiresome and complex ways, which I’d really rather not go into this late in the evening.

That is his real name, by the way – the one he was given at birth – Alias Robert Cummins. It is a bizarre story and one probably worth a blog at some point.

Anyway, the problem was eventually solved (I hope it has been, anyway) with the help not just of Sandra Smith but also the excellent cyber-guy and indefatigable Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show person Stephen O’Donnell.

John Ward toilet accessory with gun, silencer and loo roll

John Ward’s toilet accessory has a gun, silencer and loo roll

In the two days of missing blogs and navel-gazing, the world still turned, with John Ward, designer of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards getting some publicity in Lincolnshire of all places because today the James Bond film SPECTRE is released and, a couple of years ago, John designed a combined gun-rack and toilet paper holder.

He used to own a gun licence himself: something that never made me sleep easy in bed.

When no new blogs were being posted the last couple of days, the old one getting most hits was last Wednesday’s blog, about David McGillivray’s new short film of a previously un-produced gay porn script Trouser Bar written in 1976 by Sir John Gielgud.

David Mcgillivray (left) during the filming with Nigel Havers

David McGillivray (left) during the filming with Nigel Havers

The film (still in post-production) includes performances by Julian Clary, Barry Cryer and Nigel Havers. One blog reader user-named ‘Ludoicah’ commented:

I’d say with a cast that includes Nigel Havers and Barry Cryer that there is zero chance of this being any sort of a porn film, gay or otherwise, and it is probably, at most, a mildly risqué sketch.

To which David McGillivray replied:

Incorrect. It’s utter filth, liable to deprave and corrupt. I was blindfolded while I was producing it.

Sir John Gielgud’s script was inspired, it seems, by his love of men in tight trousers, particularly trousers made from corduroy.

Last Thursday, the day after my blog on the film appeared, the following was posted (with photo) on Trouser Bar’s Facebook page:

Trouser Bar still - corduroy trousers

Trouser Bar still – corduroy trousers un-creamed by Sir John

I’ve just seen the rough cut. Sir John would have creamed his corduroy jeans at this close-up.

It also quoted Sir John’s letter to Paul Anstee of 19th October, 1958:

“The students at the schools and universities [in Pennsylvania] are a wonderful audience, and a good deal of needle cord manch is worn (very badly cut, and usually only partly zipped!) so my eyes occasionally wander.”

Also posted on the Trouser Bar Facebook page was this quote from a Galton and Simpson comedy script for Hancock’s Half Hour in 1958:

Sid: “Hilary St Clair.” 

Tony: “Hilary St Clair? I bet he’s all corduroys and blow waves”

with the comment:

Even in the 1950s it seems that corduroy was associated with homosexuality.

All this, plus a photo on my blog of Sir John Gielgud with Sir Ralph Richardson in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, made Anna Smith – this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent – ask::

I wonder what kind of porn Ralph Richardson wrote?

and to mention:

Tony Hancock. Is this the face of a 1950s criminal?

Comedian Tony Hancock – Is this the face of a 1950s criminal?

I bought a Tony Hancock album last week at a junk shop. A woman wondered to me whether he was a criminal.

“He wasn’t a criminal,” I said, a bit annoyed. ”He was a comedian!”

“He looks like a criminal,” the woman countered, doubting my certainty.

“It was the 1950s,” I said, exasperated. “Everyone looked like a criminal back then.”

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Filed under Blogs, Comedy, Eccentrics, Gay, Internet, Movies, Pornography

A Brazilian computer turns my Tweets into poetry… after a fashion. Maybe.

A new website called Poetweet has gone online, created by the Brazilian Contemporary Art Centre. aka the B_arco Cultural Center.

You type your Twitter name into the text box, choose what type of poem you want and the software then allegedly tracks “the data of your inspiration” while, it claims, “analysing your deepest thoughts”.

Analysing my own superficial 140-character thoughts via my own Twitter account, Poetweet came up with this sonnet:


AUDIENCE MEMBER
by John Fleming

Singing, vomiting & fisting
Into over 100 million stars…
But it must be something
And the sexual use of Mars Bars

Forget comedy and turn to crime
Drugs, creativity, mental health.
2016… Everything takes time…
And turned to Beautiful Filth

At my worldwide blog statistics
In brain is mainly in the plain
Of British alternative comics

This weekend, literally underground
Church in the Middle East…
Is that a bra in the foreground?


There may be more development needed in the Poetweet software.

It also came up with this Rondel…


ORIGINAL TRAILER
by John Fleming

The World Egg Throwing Federation
Parlours and marijuana plantations
Winkleman pops up as a suggestion
Dead British television stations

Norwegian sex act in 2004. Honest.
Mad Frankie Fraser & feminism
And Lesbians in the Forest
The French for liberal Fascism

There are intentional emergencies
Now targeting Fringe comedy acts?
World aid is a holocaust of lies
Shot is real – not special effects
But have some vile Fringe memories


Make of that
What you will
I think I’ll wait
Until
Computers are more
Like Vivienne Clore

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Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography “will provide ideas that motivate that most difficult of audiences, the teenager”

Malcolm Hardee outside Grover Court in 1995

Malcolm Hardee: comic, promoter, inspiration to teenagers

Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake was published in 1996.

I co-wrote it with him. Well, OK, I wrote it from taped conversations with him.

It got quite well-reviewed:

“Hilarious” (The Scotsman)

“Blindingly funny” (The Independent)

“Makes you laugh in great snorts” (Daily Express)

“You will laugh out loud at least a dozen times” (Sunday Times)

“The funniest read in longer than I care to remember” (The Stage) 

“Characterful and not overly ghost-written…a feast of scabrous reminiscence” (Independent on Sunday)

It is now out of print, but Amazon has been happily selling occasional ‘new’ and ‘used’ copies for years.

Now surrealism has struck.

Comedy critic Bruce Dessau (about whom I blogged yesterday) has just drawn my attention to something.

An Amazon.co.uk person or, perhaps, computer has got their/its knickers in a twist.

Malcolm, Glastonbury 2003

Malcolm at Glastonbury in 2003

For those who don’t know, the late comic Malcolm Hardee was known for his outrageous behaviour. His autobiography tells anecdotes of sex, drugs and the time Malcolm had his genitals painted in luminous paint at the Glastonbury Festival.

Until recently – I think I looked a few months ago – Amazon’s description of the book was fairly spot-on. It was supplied by the book’s original publisher and (I think) read:

The humorous memoirs of criminal-turned-comedy agent Malcolm Hardee, who recalls a life of crime and misdemeanours before finding fame and fortune in the comedy boom of the 1980s. He also recalls how he did in fact, as the title suggests, steal Freddie Mercury’s birthday cake.

Currently, the book description on Amazon.co.uk reads:

Something has gone terribly wrong in amazon.co.uk's listing

Something has gone terribly wrong in amazon.co.uk’s listing

For successful classroom teaching, your students need to be engaged and active learners. In this book, there is practical advice that is grounded in the realities of teaching in today’s classrooms on how to be an inspirational teacher and produce highly motivated students. This book contains 220 positive, practical teaching ideas that are relevant to both new and experienced classroom teachers. With reference to reflective practice, best practice and Continuing Professional Development (CPD), this book provides essential support for trainee teachers, new teachers and experienced teachers looking to extend their repertoire.

Well, if teachers want to ‘extend their repertoire’ (Ooh, missus!) with impressions of French President General De Gaulle using only a pair of spectacles held atop a naked, flaccid penis representing his nose, then this is certainly the book to buy.

Something has gone terribly wrong in amazon.co.uk's listing

Amazon’s listing opens up a whole new audience for Malcolm

In the current Reviews section, the highly-regarded Teacher magazine is quoted as saying:

This book will provide ideas that motivate that most difficult of audiences, the teenager.

Absolutely true. It will certainly spice up biology classes.

The book also now has some excellent new quotes in the Reviews section including:

I enjoyed this book, and got a lot of good ideas from it” (Chris Kilby, PGCE student)

Puts a strong emphasis on the how” (Sarah Davies, Senior Lecturer, Nottingham Trent University)

Well, that is true.

And there remain some older and more representative reader reviews…

At the Tunnel, Malcolm Hardee (left) and Chris Lynam with a firework up his bum. CREDIT Geraint Lewis

At the Tunnel club, Malcolm Hardee (left) watches Chris Lynam with a firework up his bum. (Photo by Geraint Lewis)

I’d recommend anyone to look up the balloon dance on the internet to witness how amusing it was, ditto the ‘banger up the rear’ routine. It takes the reader on a journey of… his touring, drinking, womanising… a great book” (5 STARS – Comedy Cum Hardee, 1st March 2012)

A little piece of comedy history and an amazing insight into the Malcolm Hardie’s (sic) incredible life and journey.” (5 STARS – Sam, 19th May 2011)

Full of cheeky chappies and crazy anecdotes guaranteed to generate random fits of laughter. Malcolm was a lovable rogue who liked to show his knob a lot!” (5 STARS Mitzi, Wales, 9th September 2009)

I am inclined not to tell Amazon about this balls-up and see what happens.

The book is available via them in both new and used editions. Copies of the used books currently vary in price (+ £2.80 delivery) from £7.98p to £999.00. Copies of the book in ‘new’ condition vary from £49.99 to £999.00.

Interestingly, it is the same seller – UK_Bookstore – who is selling both New copies for £999.00 and Used copies for £999.00. The difference seems to be that New copies are in pristine condition and Used copies “may have some underlines and highlights”.

In case you should think I have made all this up or have changed the Amazon listing myself, I have not.

Barry Ferns won last year’s Cunning Stunt Award

Barry Ferns won Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award 2013 (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

The annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show is being held at the Edinburgh Fringe this year on Friday 22nd August. The three awards include a Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt promoting a performer or show at the Fringe.

This Amazon surrealism is not a cunning stunt.

We simply – it seems – live in increasingly surreal times.

I am very glad of that.

 

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Filed under Books, Comedy, Humor, Humour, Internet, Publishing

Coco and The Butterfields: from street busking to Facebook to merchandising

(from left) Micah, Rob, Dulcima, Tom, Jamie

C and The Bs are (from left) Micah Hyson, Rob Wicks, Dulcima Showan, Tom Twyman, Jamie Smith

Last night, I chatted to the band Coco and The Butterfields before their gig at The Borderline club in London and I survived the riskiest question you can ever ask a band with a name like that.

Allegedly an American record executive once talked to Pink Floyd and asked them: “So which one is Pink?” It ended up in their song Have a Cigar.

Last night, talking to Coco and The Butterfields, I asked: “So which one is Coco?”

“I suppose it’s me,” said Tom Twyman. “It was an alias I created when I joined Facebook in 2011… I didn’t want people to know I had joined because I had told people I didn’t like it but I thought I needed it to socially network. Coco Butterfield was just a name I came up with. The band didn’t have a name, we started using my Facebook page for the band, so we called ourselves Coco and The Butterfields.”

Dulcima and Tom at The Borderline last night

Dulcima & Tom on stage at The Borderline, London. last night

There are five in the band: Dulcima, Jamie, Micah, Rob and Tom but interestingly no percussion. That role is filled brilliantly by ‘beatboxer’ Jamie, whose importance to their sound wasn’t immediately obvious to me until he did a couple of extraordinary solos.

“Jamie was one of Canterbury’s pivotal buskers,” Rob told me. “You don’t get many people beatboxing on the streets of Canterbury.”

They all used to busk individually, then joined up after Tom and Dulcima met and started playing together. The five of them have what Rob calls “a diversity of musical tastes”.

The first track of theirs I heard was Warriors (there is a video on YouTube) which made me think they were a folk-based band but, in fact, with a cover of Fresh Prince of Bel Air in their repertoire, they are quite difficult to categorise. They have coined the rather unappealing name Fip Fok to try to combine Folk, Pop and Hip Hop.

“We’re an eclectic band,” Dulcima told me. “We’re a fusion band. We’re folky pop. We bring so many different elements separately and then, when we collaborate, everyone will chuck in different things.”

“Will you have to compromise to get a record deal?” I asked.

“We don’t want a record deal,” said Dulcima.

“Is that,” I asked, “to avoid corporate compromise or because of the internet?”

“Mostly,” said Dulcima, “because we have a lot of facilities and a lot of resources, just through people we know. The people we know have skills and are more help than a record label, which would just take a cut of everything we do.”

“It’s a lot easier nowadays,” said Tom, “to release your own records.”

“Basically,” said Micah, “we don’t want people poking their noses in.”

Coco and The Butterfields busking in Durham

Street wise – Coco and The Butterfields busking in Durham

“That’s always best,” I said. “So how are you going to make your millions? Are you going to do it online?”

“The aim,” said Rob, “is to play to as many people as humanly possible.”

“Really, we are a festival band,” said Dulcima.

“I think that’s our natural state of being,” agreed Rob.

“But you won’t necessarily succeed just playing live will you?” I asked.

“Of course,” said Rob, “to a certain extent, you do have to turn yourself into a business. The band is a business and that’s how we treat it.”

“Bands these days,” said Dulcima, “are not like in the past where you could make money with records. You make a bit but it’s all downloads and people buying at gigs.”

“Basically, the main income is live shows and merchandising,” explained Rob.

One of the merchandising webpages

Some C & The Butterfields merchandising

I did not spot it myself but one page of their website, my eternally-un-named friend spotted, is advertising one EP and two teeshirts. So they have shrewdly realised that merchandising is at least as important as music sales.

Dulcima makes her own on-stage clothes and had a choice of either going into a career making textiles or joining the band. Obviously, she chose the band. But soon her clothes are going to be sold on the band’s website.

She told me: “There will be the option to buy skirts, waistcoats, children’s waistcoats, little girls’ dresses. They’re all patchwork and they will all be very different to each other.”

“That’s very interesting,” I said. “So, in order to do what you want to do creatively – which is make music – you’re going to partly finance it – quite rightly – by merchandising.”

“It’s kind of a twin project, really,” Dulcima corrected me.

“And your first tour is coming up,” I said, “at the end of April/beginning of May.”

“What’s really fun is gigging a lot,” said Dulcima.

They were slightly concerned at only having a 45-minute slot at The Borderline last night. They prefer 90-minute performances. But they need not have worried. Their pacing and – ooh err, missus – climaxing last night were perfect. They are a superb live band.

Their performance at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury

Previous biggest show at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury

On 28th June, they will be performing their biggest gig so far – to 2,400 at the Margate Winter Gardens; their previous biggest gig was to 1,200.

“Why perform music at all?” I asked last night.

“Well,” said Micah, “Speaking personally, there’s only a certain amount of things I’m alright at. Music, rock-climbing, growing a beard and listing things.”

“Listing things?” I asked. “What sort of things?”

“Music, rock-climbing, growing a beard and listing things,” he replied.

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Comic Red Bastard and the KGB man who wants my Facebook Friends list

I would quite like to die on another planet.

As a way to go, it beats dying in the gloomy upstairs bedroom of a nursing home in Clacton-on-Sea, which is where I sat and watched my father die.

A step too far for the Evening Standard?

Is it rocket science to build pages with links?

So, two days ago, I lightheartedly tried to enter a London Evening Standard contest to win a trip into space. Well, OK, ‘trip’ might be a bit of an exaggeration. It seems the return flight takes 30 minutes overall but the time spent actually outside the earth’s atmosphere is only 4 minutes.

Still, if I want to die on another planet, it’s a start. One small step for a man…

The first problem I had was that the link to the Evening Standard’s competition’s page didn’t exist. Clicking the link just brought you back to the page you were already viewing. It took about a day to rectify this. Obviously creating a working weblink was a step too far in rocket science for the Evening Standard.

When the page was up and firing on all cylinders, I ploughed through the application form only to be told at the very very end of the process that I had to agree the Evening Standard could access my entire Facebook Friends list. Why? The only possible reason I could think of was that they wanted to spam the (at the time of writing) 4,854 people on my Friends list. And I would be responsible for that.

When I queried this, the Evening Standard Reader Offers department replied:

Will the Evening Standard’s explanation fly?

Maybe London Evening Standard’s explanation is groundless?

“Hi! The message you refer to is actually letting you know that the system we use to run the promotion will be able to access your friends list, which will allow you to share the promotion should you wish to. However we will not access or use that information for anything, so none of your friends will be effected (sic) because you have entered.”

Apart from my nagging worry that the Evening Standard people can’t spell ‘affected’, why would they need to have access to my Friends list in order to allow me to send a link for the Evening Standard’s offers page to any or all of my Facebook Friends? If I copied and pasted the web address into a message and posted it on my Facebook page, would that link somehow mysteriously not work unless the Evening Standard had on its computers each and every person on my list?

It is enough to make you paranoid.

I mean, it is surreal enough that the London Evening Standard (like the Independent newspaper) is now owned by an ex-KGB officer. Is this a case of old habits dying hard?

Not a woman in a burkha

Not a woman in a burka

Shortly afterwards, I went out to Holborn in central London and there I saw (I presume it was) a woman dressed in full burka standing next to a Post Office pillar box. It was like something out of a Magritte painting or an imagining of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels.

A medium-sized red-painted pillar with a horizontal slit towards the top through which I could post letters beside which stood a medium-sized pillar of black cotton with a horizontal slit towards the top through which I could see a pair of eyes staring out at me.

This oddness was not topped until a few hours later when I saw Red Bastard perform in the East End of London, strangely just round the corner from Vallance Road, where gangsters the Kray Twins used to live – and from the Repton Boxing Club where they… well… boxed as and with young men.

The showman Adam Taffler last night

Showman Adam Taffler celebrated last night

The Red Bastard event was staged by showman Adam Taffler aka Adam Oliver who had managed to successfully promote this off-West-End show at short notice so effectively that the original single show and single workshop by Red Bastard had been upped to two shows and three workshops. (The second show is tonight.)

The show last night seemed to have attracted whatever the collective noun is for a wide collection of some of the most cutting edge, potentially not-far-from-breakthrough acts in London including Holly Burn, Adam Larter, Lizzy Mace, Real McGuffin Dan March, Darren Maskell and Lindsay Sharman not to mention half of Nelly Scott/Zuma Puma’s new clown workshop.

Bob Slayer’s underpants were sponsored last night

Bob Slayer’s underpants were sponsored last night

One unexpected yet somehow not unexpected sight of the evening was comedian/promoter Bob Slayer acting as barman – obviously, occasionally without his trousers so he could display the underpants supplied by his Edinburgh Fringe sponsors Bawbags, purveyors of fine Scottish undergarments.

Bob’s presence was partly explained by the fact that, on 20th October, he and Adam are jointly promoting Malcolm Hardee Award winning Adrienne Truscott’s one-off show at the nearby Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.

Who is Red Bastard; what is he?

Red Bastard – the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee

I saw Red Bastard at the Edinburgh Fringe – he was a nominee for the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality – and several people have asked me what he does.

I have never been able to find words with which to tell them.

Much like The Short Man With Long Socks, the act is uncategorisable.

That is, after all, a sign of true originality.

If you could include it in a single existing category – comedy, mime, therapy, actor training, psychology, performance art, voyeurism, drama, audience involvement – it would not be truly original. Perhaps the Red Bastard show is best described with that unfathomable 1960s word – an Event.

You cannot describe it; you have to experience it.

Please do.

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British government accused of weakening copyright to help Google – and fat, bald man breaches copyright

Copyright symbol

In the latest issue of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain‘s weekly e-bulletin, this interesting piece appears under the heading

________________________________

INDUSTRY NEWS

________________________________

A committee of MPs has issued a report strongly criticising changes in copyright law and warning, “There is an underlying agenda driven at least partly by technology companies (Google foremost among them) which, if pursued uncritically, could cause irreversible damage to the creative sector on which the UK’s future prosperity will significantly depend.”

The report, by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, quotes Viscount Younger of Leckie, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Intellectual Property, as saying: “Google is one of several search engines … and I am very aware of their power, put it that way. I am also very aware, I think, that they have access, for whatever reason, to higher levels than me in No. 10, I understand.”

Changes to copyright law follow a review by Professor Ian Hargreaves, a former newspaper editor, and include new exceptions (i.e. free use of copyright material) for educational purposes, private copying, parodies and pastiches, and “user-generated content” in which consumers can download material and incorporate it in their own creations without permission or payment. There is also a plan to introduce “extended collective licensing” which could enable copyright collecting societies to give permission and accept payment for works by people who are not even their members.

The Writers’ Guild keeps a close eye on such developments through its affiliations to two expert bodies – the Creators’ Rights Alliance and the British Copyright Council. Both organisations have made detailed submissions to the Government that have been endorsed by the Guild.

Read more on the Melville House website, the Creators’ Rights Alliance website, and  the British Copyright Council website.

********

I, of course, am all for maintaining strong copyright laws – otherwise everything I write could be nicked and passed-off by others as their own creation. The irony is that, in  re-printing that Writers’ Guild of Great Britain’s piece, I have broken their copyright.

In my heart, the importance of copyright and irony are nicely balanced.

Perhaps more interesting, though, is the sentence quoted above from a British government minister saying that Google “have access, for whatever reason, to higher levels than me in No. 10, I understand.”

The italics are mine.

What reason is being hinted at here?

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Filed under Copyright, Internet, Writing

Rearranging books on the shelves of the Titanic as the iceberg gets even closer

Never to be available as printed book

“Printed books are dead,” I told someone recently.

I was having a chat with him because he intends to become an independent publisher. He seemed to me to be surprisingly still wedded to physical books printed on paper.

I pointed out to him that it used to be the case, when you travelled in a London tube train, you saw lots of people reading books and newspapers.

Now – and I do often consciously count ‘em – most people in the late afternoon or evening are looking at smartphones or tablets or occasionally Kindles. And a few are reading the free Evening Standard. No-one is reading a paid-for newspaper. Almost no-one is reading a printed book.

“That’s only in London,” he told me.

I don’t know if that is true. But soon it will be everywhere.

Local and regional newspapers are dying. National printed newspapers and magazines  are plunging off a cliff. And printed books are in terminal decline.

I am in the process of turning my 2010-2011 blogs into an eBook – a soul-destroying process.

I would only issue the blogs as an eBook; there is no point publishing them in a printed book. No-one will buy it, of course, even as an eBook – because they can access the same material for free online. But there might be a few sales if it is pitched very cheap; and it is a tiny bit of self-publicity; and it is a learning process for me.

Malcolm Hardee book. New version published?

Once I understand the pitfalls, I intend to re-issue comedian Malcolm Hardee’s iconic autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake as an eBook and as a print-on-demand book, possibly in a revised form (the publisher changed the original opening and the chapter endings, making it less interesting). And I have four other ‘books’ partially-ready after that, some to be issued solely as eBooks, some as both e and print-on-demand books.

Print-on-demand means you only print the exact number of books required; there is no wastage.

Yesterday, I went to a two-hour event called Going Indie: The Writer in The Digital Age at the Free Word Centre in London. I was surprised that, there too, there was a reluctance to admit the printed book is dead. Almost all the talk was about the apparent rise of small, independent publishers with an emphasis on printed books and physical bookshops rather than the opportunities for ePublishing, self-publishing and internet retail… although Amazon, of course, was mentioned.

I was interested to hear that 60 million books are sold in the UK every year and 20% of those are cookery books. I do not know how many of the non-cookery books are eBooks. I understand that now, in North America, sales of eBooks outnumber the sales of printed books.

Amazon, of course, dominate. And they have lots of different charts covering different subject areas.

Interestingly, Darren Laws of small British publisher Caffeine Nights yesterday explained how he had increased the profile of one of his books on Amazon.

“We looked at the charts and looked at what was selling,” he revealed. “We saw that, on the numbers, one particular crime fiction book we published was outselling the No 1 sports fiction title on Amazon. Our book had a sports fiction background so, legitimately, we swapped the chart listing for it from crime fiction to sports fiction and suddenly we had a No 1 book. It found its audience readership, it stayed there for quite some time. On eBooks, we were selling a couple of hundred a month on that title: quite good for a small company like us.”

Justine Solomons of Byte the Book observed: “The internet gives you the ability to find someone who’s a bit like you.”

She also, rather oddly, admitted: “I used to choose the books I read by publisher. That’s becoming increasingly important: brands.”

Indeed, some small publishers now have subscribers, rather like book clubs, where their readers pay to buy future as-yet-unknown books from the publisher.

Meike Ziervogel of Peirene Press said: “We publish contemporary European bestsellers in translation so, although our authors are very well-known abroad, no-one knows them here and no-one really cares if they’ve won prizes and sold millions of books abroad. We run a highly successful subscription service. We have subscribers up to the end of 2015, but we have only announced our 2013 catalogue. So people are trusting what we will be putting out. We have a strong brand.”

“You’re going more towards the magazine model,” Justine Solomons suggested to her. “The definition of a magazine is you have a body of work and you have issues from it. It doesn’t need to be journal articles. Granta ran on that model for a long time. You subscribe because you know the sort of stuff you will get. Like The New Yorker.”

Peirene Press also hold ‘roaming stores’ which sell books.

Rebecca Swift of The Literary Consultancy pointed out: “Meike was last seen in Budgens supermarket at Crouch End. This kind of ingenuity and dextrous thinking around how you’re going to sell what you’re passionate about is absolutely vital and goes hand-in-hand with really good publishing.”

“That story underlines why independent publishers are so exciting,” said Rachael Ogden of Inpress. “You don’t find the Managing Director of Random House at Budgens. They don’t get that close to the reader.”

To me, though, all this talk of printed books is like King Canute standing on the bow of the Titanic, talking about re-arranging books on the shelves in the library as he watches the iceberg approach and admires the craftsmanship which went into the building of the ocean-going liner.

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Jimmy Savile: The birth of a paedophile hoax on “Have I Got News For You”

Jimmy Savile – the truth?

Late tonight, ITV1 are broadcasting their much-publicised Exposure programme on The Other Side of Jimmy Savile. They are mad. They should schedule it in peak time.

A couple of days ago in this blog, I posted an alleged transcript of the un-broadcast sections of a BBC TV Have I Got News For You episode in which Jimmy Savile appeared. At the bottom of the transcript, I revealed that it was a 1999 hoax.

The reason the hoax has been believed by many over the twelve years since it first appeared is partly because it was built on (as it has turned out) well-founded rumours.

But also because it was so well-written.

So who wrote it and why?

Comedian Richard Herring, who knows most things, told me it was some people calling themselves SOTCAA and, indeed, it was. Two of them.

Around 2005, when they were writing on the Cookd and Bombd forum, they were calling themselves ‘Alan Strang’ and ‘Emergency Lalla Ward Ten’.

Now I’m told I should call them Joseph Champniss and Mike Scott.

“At the time this all took place,” Joseph Champniss told me yesterday, “SOTCAA was hosted by NotBBC.

“Sometime in 1999, we started pondering on how affected stories get attached to ‘classic’ shows and films over the years which go down well in pub conversations but also blur any kind of factual coverage – stuff like the rushes of The Wicker Man being buried under the M4 motorway and so on.

“On the other hand, some of the bits we’d gathered for Edit News etc, seemed a tad on the unbelievable side – such as Paul McCartney getting his nob out in Magical Mystery Tour. So we decided it would be fun to stick some obviously fake stuff on the site, just to see whether or not people would actually question it. Part of the site’s remit was to get comedy fans questioning the media, refusing to accept everything at face value.

“Faking some Have I Got News For You out-takes was originally going to be part of that initial plan. We probably decided on it after watching the Unbroadcastable Have I Got News video, which itself features rushes material… but mainly because we enjoy the idea of rushes per se.

“The original idea was to stick the page on the site in Hidden Archive and see if anyone noticed/cared. Emergency Lalla Ward went off and wrote the actual page – based on a tape of the broadcast itself. If you watch the show in tandem with the fakery you’ll note that he’s specifically ‘filled in’ stuff where there was an obvious edit-point. However, this was really only ever a first draft. Something to build on and re-write later in a less obvious/explosive fashion.

“What with everything else we were hurriedly completing for the site at the time, the story gets a bit blurred from this point on. We definitely sent it down to Rob the webmaster along with all the other finished pages so that he could turn it into a website. At this point, SOTCAA was just a bunch of Word documents with pictures attached. Rob then sent the results back to us on a disc so we could see how the thing looked, design-wise. The Have I Got News For You page stood out like a sore thumb. Far too obvious a fake, we thought.

“I remember us getting together with Rob at the Hen & Chickens, Islington, to ponder on what – if anything – to do with it. Maybe the rewrite as planned, or something similar. Until we decided on what to do, Rob commented out the link on the Hidden Archive index page so that it was only visible to people viewing the source code. This brings us up to March 2000, when the site first went live.

“At some point during all of this, one of us came up with the alternate idea of leaking the unedited piece to Matthew Wright (then writing a column for the Daily Mirror) to see if he’d fall for it. April 1st was coming up, so it seemed like as good a time as any for a hoax.

“The idea was to contact Wright anonymously, point him towards the page, mention that it had been ‘hidden’ and then run away laughing, hoping that he’d fall for it and include some sort of reference to it on his gossip page. If successful, we would have then replaced the page with a great big ‘April Fool’ sign, and published the transcript in full with suitable amendments referencing this.

“But that idea came and went, as did April Fools Day, and we just forgot all about it – until June when an anonymous forum dweller discovered the link.”

Co-hoaxer Mike Scott says: “I was annoyed when the script leaked because it was a rough draft in dire need of roughening up. I thought it’d never fool anyone unless it was toned down a bit. I heard that Paul Merton was infuriated by it, which disappointed me at the time.”

“Amusingly,” says Joseph Champniss, “the publication resulted in something similar to what we’d planned, albeit via a more scenic route. It certainly wasn’t a planned forum-leak. Had we realised beforehand what was going to happen, we would have removed the credit from the base of the page! We probably should have put a stop to it sooner, but all three of us were fascinated – and not a little excited – about how far it could conceivably go.

“We found out for sure a bit later when solicitors, apparently acting on behalf of Sir James Savile OBE, managed to close down the site pending an enquiry re libel, defamation of character etc etc. As webmaster, Rob was required to write a legally-binding letter in hardcopy pointing out that the script in question had never actually been ‘officially’ published on the site (and that we had no plans to publish it in the future) before the ban could be lifted.”

One reason why I thought the fake transcript was so convincing was because, I assumed, the people who wrote it were TV insiders. But I was wrong. Appearances can be deceptive.

“We were just very keen comedy fans,” Joseph Champniss told me yesterday, “with a particular fondness for out-takes and the underside of what gets broadcast and what doesn’t. I’m an illustrator/designer – I did a few bits for Lee and Herring‘s TV shows, such as designing the puppet crows on This Morning With Richard Not Judy. That’s the extent of my TV production background! We also did the sleeve notes on the recent Fist of Fun DVD releases.”

“The fake transcript is very impressive,” I told him.

“Well,” he replied, “a quick quote (from memory) is that Victor Lewis-Smith told us: If it was you (and I never believe anything hoaxers say) then you should be doing more of it! It was all over Fleet Street. They were onto Merton. They were onto me. A friend cornered Chris Morris at a Fall music gig later that year and asked him what he thought of it. Funniest thing I’ve read all year, is the quote we still use occasionally!”

In July 2000 Lucy Rouse, editor of the TV trade magazine Broadcast, wrote a piece in the Guardian, saying:

You may have recently come across an email, which has been doing the rounds for the last week or so. It purports to be a transcript of out-takes from one of last year’s episodes of BBC2’s Have I Got News for You, featuring Sir Jimmy Saville.

With it goes just about every lesson you ever needed to learn about the perils of the electronic revolution: anything goes if it’s in electronic form but you really shouldn’t treat every email you read as gospel.

TV producers could never be accused of telling the truth, relying, as they do, on a whole series of out-takes before they hit on a version of events they’re happy to broadcast. And this seems to have been the case with this particular episode of Have I Got News.

The supposed out-takes are said to have come from sources close to the producers and were being widely circulated over the internet at the end of last week.

Paul Merton is always a man to push the televisual boundaries of libel laws as far as they will stretch but the transcript went a lot further than anything you would have seen on the show. The trouble is – according to sources – a huge chunk of the middle section of the email is fabricated.

In one particularly terse exchange appearing in the “transcript”, for example, Merton supposedly attacks Saville about his personal hygiene. In another, the comedian seemingly loses the plot completely and launches into an incoherent rant before being asked by a rattled Angus Deayton if he wants to stop the recording.

It may have been a piece of fiction, but it made an afternoon wading through 112 messages in Outlook a lot more amusing than it might otherwise have been.

“What’s it like?” I asked Joseph Champniss yesterday: “Your comic insinuations being proved to have been right thirteen years later?”

“Well, they weren’t ‘our’ insinuations in the first place,” he replied. “Those stories did the rounds for years – the Louis Theroux show covered it far more publically! So there’s no sense of ‘we told you so’ here. We heard other stories off the back of the transcript a bit later. One quote – from someone whose name I can’t even begin to recall – went Good effort, my dears, but Jimmy liked boys not girls! Some of the recent press stories suggest that this may be true also. Maybe I’m just bitter because Jimmy Savile never replied to my letter to Jim’ll Fix It for me to meet Kenny Everett back in 1981…!

“As for the ability to con readers after all these years… It’s odd… It’s doubtful this particular spoof could have been created – and spread so far – at any subsequent point in the internet’s history. It was in 1999 – pre-YouTube. These days, the first question would be So where’s the footage then? To be fair, even back then, a few people were saying So where’s the Real Audio of the soundtrack? But it was perfectly plausible back in the days of dial-up that a text transcript would be the most convenient medium for disclosing such information. I suspect the main reason it’s lingered so long on the net is that the links usually take people back to that little archived text-file page on Zetnet… A more innocent age.”

“Years ago,” says Mike Scott. “in one of our sillier moods, we had the idea of sending out a press release saying that Linehan and Mathews were working on a fourth series of Father Ted, sans Dermot Morgan (who died in 1998), to be called Father Dead. We wrote a fake script page and everything. Nowadays this would have been identified as a hoax almost immediately but, back in 1999, we felt there was a small air-pocket of reality in which this was ‘just about’ plausible. It would depend on where you heard the news.”

“By the way,” Joseph Champniss told me yesterday, “I’ve been reading a few more recent discussion threads which insist that we erroneously claimed that Jimmy Savile was a guest on Paul Merton’s team rather than Ian Hislop’s and that this proved that it was a hoax. The intro to the Zetnet page certainly claims that. But that intro was added by whoever uploaded it there. I think our original page just said Some out-takes from a recent episode. The fact that we spelt Savile’s surname incorrectly (as Saville) was never commented on, mind you!”

Fakery is an interesting topic and widespread, though faking something does not necessarily mean it is untrue. For example, you may have assumed from the above that yesterday I talked to Joseph Champniss and Mike Scott.

I did not.

I did exchange e-mails with Joseph Champniss two days ago – I claimed it was ‘yesterday’ to make it seem more vivid. The quotes are true.

But most of what you read above is not from my e-mails with Joseph Champniss. It was cobbled-together (with his knowledge), including the quotes from Mike Scott, from four separate pre-existing posts on other sites on the internet.

What you see and read is not necessarily reality, as the life of Jimmy Savile perhaps proves.

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