Friday, December 19, 2008

Everyone shall have a cookie, I've baked extra for the Wookie

Right. Christmas edition of Private Eye went to bed at lunchtime yesterday, so I'm clocking off and hitting the eggnog. Don't expect any more posts until 2009. Thanks to everyone who's dropped by this year, a special shout-out to the recent influx of visitors redirected from David Icke's website (you've made me the happiest lizard on earth), and I'll leave you with your Festive Friday Treat and wish you all a very very happy Life Day (New Liarbore political correctness gone mad etc...)

*note for passing geeks: not only do I know the quote comes from the Christmas in the Stars LP and the video's from the Star Wars Holiday Special, I feel the need to point out my knowledge here. Get over it and go back to searching for unofficial Watchmen trailers...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A source confirmed: "Mooo"

Sky News only quotes impeccable sources:

Mad Cow: 'Hundreds More May Die'

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Telegraph o'er the water

From Media Guardian: Ex-Telegraph journalists Craig Brown and Sam Leith join Reader's Digest.

Sarah Sands is quite plainly setting up the Telegraph-in-exile, isn't she?


Monday, December 15, 2008

And on the fifteenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

... the traditional load of made-up bollocks about political correctness gone mad...

Can anyone spot any evidence anywhere in the Daily Mail's story "Mother told to take down her Christmas lights in case they offend her non-Christian neighbours" that Dorothy Glenn was ever told by anyone to take her Christmas lights down?

A plump plum pudding to the first enterprising hack who manages a festive recycling of the old "Hot Cross Buns without crosses" bit of nonsense as "Now they won't let us call them Mince Pies in case it offends the gays"...

But it's traditional!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Joined-up Government

Last week: government insists police were right to arrest public sector worker Christopher Galley for leaking information (to Damian Green) on his bosses at the Home Office who he thought were not doing their job properly.

This week: government launches special whistleblower hotline for public sector workers to leak information on their bosses if they think they're not doing their job properly.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Into the dark night that is very, very long...

Oliver Postgate once emailed me when I was working at The Big Issue. It was by quite some measure the most exciting and impressive communication I had ever had with someone famous.

He wanted to know more about a reference to an 'e-book' that had been included in an article, because he was researching ways of transferring lots of his animation, illustrations and behind-the-scene photos into easily-accessible forms for the sort of technology that hadn't even been dreamed of in the Clangers' time. He would have been in his mid-70s. He was working on his brilliant autobiography Seeing Things, which you could still order in time for Christmas if you're feeling flush.

A lot of it ended up on this website, where I should imagine a lot of people will be spending some time this morning, telling their colleagues they must have caught that cold that's going round and that's why they're sniffing so much and their eyes have gone a bit streamy.

I was going to close with an appropriate quote from the first saga of Noggin the Nog, but someone else got there first:

Then, one day, the king rose from his seat as if to go down to his castle. The people watching him saw him shake and stagger and fall to the ground. The king was dead. Great was the sadness and loud the wailing. The flags on the houses were pulled to half mast and the great bell rang.

Monday, December 08, 2008

First they came for the obituarists, and I said nothing. Then they came for the literary editor...

Bloody hell.

The Media Guardian tells me that

Columnists Craig Brown and AN Wilson have become the latest and most high profile departures from Telegraph Media Group.

Satirist Brown, who was on contract to write two pieces a week for the Daily Telegraph – which were published on Saturday and Tuesday – was informed last week that his services would no longer be required.

They must have some kind of really clever plan that's just too clever for anyone in the outside world to see, mustn't they. Mustn't they? Because the alternative is that when Chang and Eng Barclay took over they wrote out two lists, one of everything that was distinctive and had value to the Telegraph brand, and the other of the stuff no one was that bothered about, and then put the wrong one in the internal post...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday frights

No treats for you this week - you've been bad. Instead, in tribute to the anonymous lurker down there who accused me of being envious of Liz Jones's lifestyle and thus gave me the best laugh I've had in weeks: be afraid, be very afraid...

Things that happen when the Popbitch mailout links to your website...

1) You suddenly get 6,500 more visitors than usual

2) Arts correspondents from the dailies phone you up saying they've 'just come across a really good story' they think you might be able to help them out with in return for a tip fee.

The edition of Private Eye featuring the Damien Hirst story has now been on sale for eleven days...

Today's lesson for headline writers: how prepositions work

I can't help feeling the Mirror's front page is being a little bit harsh on poor Shannon and her brothers and sisters...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Featuring David Mitchell, as 10% of all broadcast material must by law

So I saved up my tokens from PG Tips and got a cuddly Monkey.

I bought a pair of Levis just so I could get a Flat Eric.

But how much cocaine do I have to take to get my free Pablo the Drug Mule Dog?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Now you don't see it

You know the best thing about the Mail's reaction to what everyone's calling John-Barrowman's-winky-gate?

While Mail editor Paul Dacre was putting this front page together in the office, he actually had his cock out.

Or perhaps he didn't. Maybe he just said he did. Or I said he did to get a cheap laugh. No one knows. No one saw anything.

What we can say with some certainty that he was swearing his head off, because he generally does. Dacre throws around the C-word with such regularity that editorial conferences at the Mail are known as "the Vagina Monlogues".

So will he now offer an unreserved apology to the British public for something that happened during the production of a newspaper they could have (though most of them didn't) read, despite the fact none of them saw (or indeed had any means by which to see) it? And their children? And those children who were only spared the ordeal due to the fact they haven't been born yet?*

It's not often you can invoke the Scissor Sisters to make a valid point about the day's news, but has no-one at the Mail noticed that YOU CAN'T SEE TITS ON THE RADIO?

*(c) Fry and Laurie, circa 1987.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

For those who were trying to buy my book

Just a quick word for the people who contacted me saying they were having difficulty getting hold of copies of The King of Sunlight after it appeared on A Good Read on Radio 4: I've dug out a box of paperbacks I had and put them up on Amazon marketplace here at some extortionate price (hey, I've got to buy Christmas presents too - and it's considerably cheaper than the nutter who's got a copy up at £1,219.99). If you buy one and email me using the button on my website I'll scribble whatever you want inside it...

I'm arresting you on suspicion of... oh, alright, not suspicion, just a whim really.

Gawd bless David Blunkett, the man you can always rely upon to say something stupid in a crisis.

From today's Guardian:

"David Blunkett, the former home secretary, led a cross-party attack on the police yesterday for what he described as 'overkill' in arresting Damien Green, the shadow Home Office minister... Blunkett spoke of 'the danger of treating every case as though we are dealing with a suspicious character.'"

That's most police work screwed then...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Most unexpected thing found so far in research for the history of Private Eye...

... mention of a teenage Sharon Osbourne (then Levy), in an article on her father Don Arden's business practices in November 1969, when the Eye was rather groovy and Paul Foot wrote lengthy articles about pop music mis-management.

Alright, I'm really only bringing this up as an excuse to point you towards this picture of a pre-surgery Sharon, as your friday treat.


... from this week's issue, out now:


Cartrain is a 16-year-old graffiti artist who creates Banksy-style stencils and collages containing such recognisable figures as Mickey Mouse, George Bush, Clint Eastwood and the Queen, none of whom have ever objected. Damien Hirst is a 43-year-old, Turner prize-winning, world-famous artist whose work For The Love of God, a platinum cast of a human skull set with 8,601 diamonds, sold for £50million last year.

Cartrain recently made a series of collages which featured, amongst other things, photographs of Hirst’s sculpture. Some imposed the bejewelled skull over the faces of figures taken from other photographs. One showed it sitting in a shopping basket alongside a bunch of carrots. He displayed them in the online gallery, where the average price for one of Cartrain’s collages is £65.00.

He was contacted by the Design and Artists Copyright Society, acting on the direct instructions of their member Damien Hirst, informing him that he had broken the law by infringing Hirst’s copyright. Hirst demanded that he not only remove the works from sale but “deliver up” the originals along with any profit he had made on those that he had already sold, or face legal action. The DACS, who refused to comment on the matter when contacted by the Eye, duly took delivery on Hirst’s behalf of four collages by Cartrain on 12 November. They still await the cash the teenager made from sales of his work, which his gallery say is “around £200”. Until it arrives, Hirst will have to get by on the £95.7million he made in September in an unprecedented direct auction of his own artworks, held without the involvement of middlemen because he felt that “there’s a hell of a lot of money in art - but the artists don’t get it.”

Critics, meanwhile, see interesting influences in Cartrain’s work – including that of Hymn by Damien Hirst, who in May 2000 donated an “undisclosed sum” to charity in lieu of his royalties on the £1m sale of the work to Charles Saatchi after toymakers Humbrol objected to the fact it was a direct copy of their Young Scientist Anatomy Set. Or of the Fermat spiral of circles at fixed divergence of approximately 137˚ which mathematician Robert Dixon developed, exhibited at the Royal College of Art, and published in his book Mathographics, only to find it reproduced with Damien Hirst’s name next to it in the Guardian several years later (see Eyes 1086 and 1104). Or indeed For The Love of God, which not only closely resembled a range of skull jewellery sold by Butler and Wilson (see Eye 1186) but also bore a strong resemblance to works by his former friend and co-exhibitor John LeKay, who told the Times last year that “I would like Damien to acknowledge that ‘John really did inspire the skull and influenced my work a lot’. Damien’s very insecure about his originality.”



How is the Eye’s favourite columnist Liz Jones getting on in the country retreat she documented her move to so thoroughly back in December (see Hackwatch, Eye 1201)?

Well, she has adopted some chickens who had formerly been in a battery farm. In February this year she described the poor animals as “bald… covered in blood. Their beaks were misshapen. They were so weak they could barely stand, let alone walk or grasp a perch.”

The good news is that a mere nine months later, after tortuous negotiations and the involvement of the Press Complaints Commission, Jones’ paper the Mail on Sunday agreed to print a letter from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust which pointed out that “the ex-battery hens Liz Jones collected from us in January 2008 were generally in good condition, not ‘covered in blood’ nor ‘almost pecked to death’ as she wrote.” Founder Jane Howorth, who prides herself on her good relations with the farming industry and the fact her organisation will “never knowingly allow a hen to go to a new home with health problems,” pointed out that “her sensationalist article only illustrated how shock tactics and negative spin achieve nothing – it directly damaged farm relations resulting in the loss of thousands of Ex-Bats, hens we could have homed.”

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Signs you are getting older (and the world more prosperous)

... you remember listening to Radio One when their "Gimme Shelter" campaign was all about teenage homelessness. And now you are listening to Radio Six and their "Gimme Shelter" campaign is all about how to get the best mortgage deals in a challenging market.

Do you ever get the feeling we might deserve this recession just a little bit?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quiet in here, isn't it?

I am thinking about things.

It's just that they're not really things which are any of your business, that's all.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

That's not news, that's just your mum talking...

Reading the alarming number of comments on this made me want to buy one of these.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Memo to all hacks: the word "historic" is hereby banned in all headlines and opening paragraphs. Use of "new dawn" is permitted only until 12 noon, when it will be discarded to the pile of meaningless cliches in the basement which are, er, "not fit for purpose".

Thursday, October 30, 2008

So, farewell then, Lesley Douglas

ooh ooh ooh! D'you think that means there's more chance of George Lamb getting sacked now, and I will be able to go back to listening to 6music in the mornings?

Alright, bored now, move on

A quick analysis of the state of the world, according to this morning's news bulletins:

Top global priority - BBC director general is in a meeting

Second string - Some sort of genocide going on in Congo, apparently

Monday, October 27, 2008

What happens in situations like this at places other than the BBC...

"Ofcom has hit Emap with the largest fine ever levied against a UK radio company - £175,000 - after a series of complaints about Kiss FM's former breakfast show host, Bam Bam… concerning wind-up calls. One call was to a man that had just been made redundant. Ofcom said the broadcaster's treatment of the man was 'totally unacceptable'.
'They showed a serious disregard for consequences of their actions and their behaviour was inconsistent with the necessary care that broadcasters would reasonably be expected to take to avoid potential unfairness and unwarranted infringment of privacy.'
Emap told Ofcom it agreed that the call was 'a horrible intrusion into someone's privacy and degrading someone in public ... it was also extremely bad for the radio station' and descibed the decision to broadcast the item (which was pre-recorded) as 'inexplicable'."
Media Guardian, June 2006

Mind you, according to the Ofcom website it turns out they could take action in this case:

"Ofcom can consider complaints about programmes transmitted by all broadcasters licensed in the UK as well as the BBC and S4C. However, we cannot consider complaints about accuracy in BBC TV and radio news or complaints about impartiality in BBC TV and radio programmes. These complaints have to be dealt with by the BBC."

And a £175,000 fine would be... ooh, ten and a half-day's salary for Jonathan Ross, wouldn't it?

EDIT ON TUESDAY MORNING: And indeed, they are: Ofcom to launch BBC Brand Inquiry

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lever Park

This is how I described the ruined estate of William Lever at Rivington, in my book The King Of Sunlight (As recommended on 'A Good Read' on Radio 4!).

"Follow the grass-pocked macadam road across the fields, a stumbling parabola up into the woods that cling to the side of the hill. It's only when you reach the shade of the trees that you realize they are not what they seem; though the branches are as gnarled and intertwined as the spookiest of fairy-tale forests, this woodland is barely a century old. It's the rhododendrons that give it away. Nineteenth-century British landowners planted them like tom-cats laying down scent: you are now entering our territory, beware, Big House ahead. But money comes and money goes, while plants that were built to survive the snowstorms of the Himalayas prosper, and these rich green bushes have long since spread and multiplied across the hillside, swamping paths and bridges and summerhouses on their way. For beneath the rhododendrons, the leaf-mould and bracken and the detritus of eighty years of neglect, there is a formal garden here. A series of terraces is etched into the sandstone like the levels of Dante's inferno, their once formal planting sprawling out and spilling between levels in the darkness beneath the trees. A flight of 365 steps snakes steeply between them; one for each day of the year, bisected by four paths which were built to represent the seasons but have long since mulched down into a year-long autumn twilight. The upward path is treacherous; the steps irregular and slippery underfoot. You're exhausted before you've even made it up the first month's worth.

A hundred years ago, there were lions round here. And zebras, and emus, and buffalo and yak in specially built paddocks, not to mention the flocks of flamingos that lived on the Japanese pond further up the hill, laid out with ornamental lamps and pagodas as a living copy of the willow-pattern plate. There was every intention of stocking the caves that had been specially bored into the hillside with bears, too, but somehow it never quite happened. The man behind this fantasy made real, this other Eden in Lancashire, had moved on to another project by then - reading a book about the history of Liverpool Castle and its ruination by Cromwell's armies, he had been seized by the similarity between its site and the banks of the reservoir below, and decided to build a full-size, pre-ruined replica of it instead. Like you do."

It is one of the most magical, beautiful, extraordinary places in England. And a number of locals are very upset about the felling of a number of trees and the pushing through of planning permission for an adventure centre called "Go Ape" by the local council using delegated powers, which mean the public weren't consulted.

"Go Ape" is a series of tree-top walkways, tarzan swings and aerial runways, which it must be admitted sounds pretty aces - until you consult their website and find out that each visit will cost £45 per 10-15 year-old child and the adult who's obliged to accompany them. When he gave the land on which it will stand to the people of Bolton in 1901, Lever was very specific: it had to "be used as a Public Park for the use and enjoyment of the Public for ever... the purpose for which the Park is intended is its free and uninterrupted enjoyment by the Public."

They're trying to build one in Glasgow's Pollock Park, too, next to the Burrell Collection, my favourite art gallery in the world, which makes me think they've got something personal against me.

The Friends of Lever Park's campaign website is here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Next week: Andrew Alexander buffs his scrotum

Sweet jesus. Today's Daily Mail has actually devoted a full double page spread to Amanda Platell's wrinkly tits.

(I promise that description is not just me being gratuitously offensive. Click on the link if you don't believe me. The Femail pages do rampant misogyny so much better than I ever could...)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things that happen when (completely unexpectedly) your book features on Radio 4

1. That nice Patricia Routledge off of Hetty Wainthrop says nice things about you.

2. This happens on Amazon:

3. Your mum phones you up, all proud.

Which was nice...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

11th Doctor: shock casting news

Sod editing a national magazine. Never mind getting on the front page of the Times. Screw the publication of my first book. This is without doubt, and by a very long way, the most exciting thing that's ever happened in my career:

Oh, alright then. I'm going to be interviewed next month for a DVD extra, about dalek jokes and the Birtspeak column in Private Eye. But deep inside of me - right down near the magnetic core, pass the Slither and turn left - there's a five-year-old with a Playmobil-scale Tardis made out of an old milk carton and recurring nightmares about what happens at Mistfall on Alzarius - who is very, very, very happy indeed.

0 out of 7

I see they still haven't libel-proofed the comments mechanism on the Daily Express website, then.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Little by name...

Ah, how refreshing to read Richard Littlejohn in the Mail last week:

"Lord Sleaze and the Lady Reinaldo will continue to receive invitations to garden parties at the palace long after New Labour is a distant memory."

It's just like old times:

January 2007: "If Mandy and Reinaldo want a bay-bee, all they have to do is turn up at Haringey Town Hall and Millie Tant will be only too happy to offer them an exciting selection of children in a wide range of shapes, genders, creeds and colours."

November 2006: "Mandy does get a £21,000 housing allowance, but I would imagine that all goes towards paying for his Brussels residence in the exquisitely-named Rue des Six Jeunes Hommes, where he holds court with his Madame Pompadour, Reinaldo."

May 2006: "Our chief stewardess in our First Class cabin is Mandy, who will be assisted by the lovely Reinaldo."

September 2005: " Speaking of Mandy, I notice that his boyfriend, Reinaldo, has become a British citizen. That's nice for him, although no one has ever explained how he obtained a visa to live here in the first place. Did Mandelson pull any strings? Did Reinaldo receive preferential treatment as the live-in lover of a Labour minister?"

February 2005: "Peter and Reinaldo fly to Brazil, where they practise the ancient ritual of choking the chicken."

July 2004: "By the time the appointment was announced officially, Reinaldo was already checking out curtain fabrics for the new all-expenses-paid pad in Brussels.

September 2003: "Mandy is lucky he didn’t have to spend a year as prison bitch to a hairy-arsed lifer from Bermondsey, which would have been no substitute for the tender caresses of the fragrant Reinaldo."

May 2002: "The fact that he was gay was irrelevant. The same question would have been asked had Reinaldo been a female flamenco dancer called Reinalda."

December 2001: "Mandy's known as something of a karaoke virtuoso. A couple of songs wouldn't be too much to ask. My Way, followed by I Will Survive, accompanied by his lovely assistant Reinaldo on backing vocals, would liven up any party."

August 2001: "he could always find himself a leading politician to move in with. I should think there's probably a spare bed at Shaun Woodward's place, in the next room to Mandy and Reinaldo."

June 2001: "Peter Mandelson was on stage, delivering his rendition of Frank Sinatra's My Way. This column has obtained an exclusive live recording of this brand-new version - But what I did, I did it all/ For my Reinaldo./ Yes there were times/ I'm sure you knew./ When I blew off/ More than I could chew..."

January 2001: "Talk about classic bunny-boiler behaviour. Except that in Mandy's case, the bunny would be free-range lapin, poached in a light bouillon with a fragrant bouquet garni and served over polenta by a Filipino boy in unfeasibly tight trousers... I have a vision of Mandy strolling round an exhibition of wooden elephants, with a terminally-bored, gum-chewing Reinaldo hanging on his arm wanting to know when they can go to Maxim's for lunch."

And so on, forever.

It was bugging me for ages what this reminded me of. And then in Littlejohn's own paper, I read the latest in the seemingly endless whinge-fest from Rachel Royce: "How could my ex-husband Rod Liddle give his young floozy the white wedding I was denied - and make my children lie about it?"

Richard - honey - you need to get over it. I know it's hard to hear, but he was just never that in to you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Polly Lingual

Sam Leith - lovely man, once assured me I wasn't the worst reporter ever to work on the Peterborough column on the Daily Telegraph - is that paper's literary editor, and a while back he cast a critical eye over Polly Toynbee's prose style.

Yes, it's a couple of weeks old, but it gives me the chance to -

a) point out that while Stephen Glover may have been the latest to join in "the new sport, common to all newspapers but her own, of juxtaposing what she wrote a year ago about Gordon Brown with what she writes these days", I did it before him, in the Eye.

b) share with you my favourite spiral of mixed metaphors, from the masterpiece that was Gina G's I Belong To You, released in 1996:

If I had wings
I could fly
Like a sweet song
That makes you cry
Like a river
To the sea
I hear you calling
Out to me.

Go on. Parse that any way you like, and see if you can work out what the hell she's on about...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Week four, and the paint is probably best described as "tacky" to the touch

The Times kicked off a new series today: Damian Whitworth is going to try and not switch his central heating on until he, er, does.

"Follow Damian Whitworth's progress every week" it offers. I will - with fascination, because frankly, he's pushing it to try and get 600 words out of the topic today.

If anyone at the Times is interested, I've got a fascinating story of how I'm not planning to tidy up my shed any time soon. I reckon it would run to at least 52 installements, 500 words a time...

Ronnie Hazelhurst was in S Club 7, too...

It's always a bit of a surprise to be reminded that things you write have a life beyond being sent to the sub-editors on press day - I have on occasion had to forcibly restrain myself from telling people on trains "what are you doing turning the page, you haven't shown proper appreciation for my bits in Street of Shame yet" - so it's gratifying to have had a demonstrable effect in the real world.

Well, alright, not the real world. Wikipedia. They've just redrafted their editorial guidelines as a result of something I wrote last issue.

"Some news organisations have used Wikipedia articles as the sole source for their work. To avoid this indirect self-referencing, editors should ensure that material from news organisations is not the only existing source outside of Wikipedia. Generally, sources that predate the material's inclusion in Wikipedia are preferable."

Here's the article in question:

Idly sabotaging the user-generated online encyclopedia Wikipedia following the UEFA cup draw back in August, a user of the b3ta web forum going by the name of “godspants” made a few amendments to the entry for Cypriot team Omonia Nicosia. He noted that they were sponsored by Natasha Kaplinsky, that their former players included Jean Claude Van Damme and Richard Clayderman, and claimed that “A small but loyal group of fans are lovingly called ‘The Zany Ones’ - they like to wear hats made from discarded shoes and have a song about a little potato.” As you do.

Writing up his pre-match report on Omonia’s match against Manchester City for the Daily Mirror on 18 September, sports hack David Anderson decided to do some in-depth research. Thus it was that Mirror readers were informed that City manager “Mark Hughes will not tolerate any slip-ups against the Cypriot side, whose fans are known as the ‘Zany Ones’ and wear hats made from shoes”.

Brilliantly, by the rules of Wikipedia – which relies on “verifiablility - whether readers are able to check that material added has already been published by a reliable, third-party source” such as “mainstream newspapers” – this is now officially true.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Prick upset by prick joke

An Algonquin Round Table-esque retort from Joe Mott's column in last week's Daily Star Sunday:

"Once respected media-mocking magazine Private Eye has taken to discussing the size of my Wilson. Apparently I've got a small one. Two things spring to mind here. 1: They must have fallen on hard times to sink this low and 2: Given my notoriously impressive track record with most of the hottest women in Medialand, I'm surprised there wasn't a female member of staff there available to put them right.

I can only conclude every woman on the mag is a hideous river pig."

Joe Mott looks like this.

Phwoar. Shame he's got such a tiny cock, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The ZZZ list

I've been reading a very good book about the tabloids. It has this to say about the rise of celebrity journalism:

"In this context, a celebrity is nothing more than a person who is primarily known for being well-known... At the heart of this preoccupation with fame - this cult of celebrity - is the creation of instant celebrities through the launch of successful new television series, whose stars quickly became the flavour of the month in the tabloid press...

A former Guardian editor says 'the prominence given to television and entertainment personalities is perhaps the nearest thing to 'an opium of the people'. In this respect, popular television and the popular press feed off one another'. The cult of celebrity took over first the supermarket tabloids, then the British tabloids, finally making inroads into the establishment press...

A reporter who deserted the establishment press and jumped on the celebrity bandwagon at the outset of the phenomenon remembers how it all started: 'the celebrity worshipping syndrome spilled over from the US about fifteen, sixteen, maybe eighteen years ago, to Britain... It's now done in this perniciously personal style. They want to know who's getting fat, and who's freaky. And then who's on drugs and booze and whose life has crashed around them. And everybody now is confessing to have been on drugs and booze and that's worn out as impact. For Christ's sake, what do we do next? We've done their sexual stuff, we've done their drugs stuff, we've done their adultery, their diseases, we cannibalize them, we eat them up.'...

The last decade has seen the most exhaustive invasion of privacy in history, with the most intimate details of celebrities' personal lives flashed around the world... A reporter says 'I mean, when celebrities sell their wedding pictures for publication, as intimate an experience as you can have, and you sell it to a magazine, then you're strictly into a matter of commerce."

A fine portrait of the last few years, Heat, Kerry Katona, Jade Goody, hand-wringing from the Guardian and all. Only this is from Shock! Horror! The Tabloids in Action by S.J.Taylor, published in 1991, and the decade she's talking about is the 1980s.

Monday, September 29, 2008

You're not helping, Jim

Given the sheer number or words James Naughtie manages to cram in to his interviews on the Today programme, you'd think he might be able to pick them better, wouldn't you?

Here he is interviewing Sherry Jones, whose book The Jewel of Medina appears to have irritated some Islamists, Rushdie-style.

"You've written it as an artist, a writer - but you must be aware that you're also to some degree a crusader now, aren't you?"

A scaelextric set, still boxed, found in the attic

More oddities turned up whilst scrabbling around in the further reaches of hard drive looking for something completely different - here's a feature I wrote for a very peculiar cars'n'fashion magazine called Intersection in 2003. Good god. I've just checked, and it still appears to be in business. And Bradford and Bingley's gone down the pan. Recessions really don't make sense, do they?

They didn't pay me. This led to a full and frank exchange of opinions, and you may not be surprised to know I didn't write for them again.

I think it's worth re-visting merely for the fact that it's probably the only time the phrase "Brobdingnagian pairs of Hi-Tecs" has ever been used in the English language.

The bar of the Farnham Conservative Club is quiet tonight. The real action is going on upstairs, far above the pewter tankards, bitter lemon and talk of how it all went wrong after Maggie. Up here patterned carpeting gives way to threadbare tiles, chairs are strictly stackable and the function rooms bear the name of local councillors who have long since gone to that great town hall in the sky. And here, in the sweaty heat of a late July afternoon, nine grown men are getting ready to play.

The subs have been totted up and safely stashed away in their ice-cream container, the covers pulled back from the arena in the centre of the room, and the brief pleasantries and enquiries about the health of “the wife” got out of the way. Now these men have one thing, and one thing only on their minds: they are here to win. The first rule of Scalextric club is, you don’t talk about Scalextric club. The second rule of Scalextric club is, last person out please switch off the lights and leave the Mike Hawthorn room in the condition you would expect to find it.

Actually, the members of the Farnham Scalextric Association are quite happy to talk about their hobby: as far as they’re concerned, the more members, the merrier. “We don’t have any women or children in the group, but they’d be very welcome – we’re not at all exclusive,” says Rob Smith, a software consultant who can be found here most Wednesday evenings. “There are some very good girl racers, though. But really they’ve always been modelled as boy’s toys, and I suppose collecting is really a boy thing.”

So it is a testosterone-only affair tonight, as the competitors hunker down on the starting grid. The accepted stance is to hold your controller two-handed at crotch level: only those racing for the first time, of whom there are two tonight, practise the “ray-gun” grip favoured by little boys whose toys had to multi-task.

It’s the first heat of the second class of the evening: 60s Sport – though the four models on the double-width track all date from the early 70s. A Ferrari 330 and a Ford Mirage face off with a pair of Javelins, two of the more weird and wonderful inventions of then owners the Tri-ang toy company in the days before Scalextric were strictly modelled on existing vehicles. Mechanically, each of the four cars are identical. Each one is fitted with magnets which hold it to its groove in the track, a rare occurrence at the club’s meetings. “They put magnets on them so as they’ll sell better to kids, who get bored quickly if the car just flies off at the first corner,” explains Smith. “But Scalextric managed for thirty-odd years without magnets, and we often run them without, just to even the playing field. As long as you’ve got like against like, that’s the main thing.” To that end, tonight will feature a further eight rounds – Ninco F1, SRS2 LM, Hot Hatch, Ninco GTR, Spanish F1, LMP Open and GTO. By the time each of the nine men in the room have had a go in each class – each is assigned a “Slot Jockey” number, and they shuffle around the wall patiently keeping their place in the line – hours will have passed. More to the point, it will be nearly closing time.

“Gentlemen, start your engines,” intones a youngish chap with a ponytail in a Hong Kong Phooey T-shirt. “3-2-1 Go”.

And they are off, screaming round the circuit like four-inch long, plastic-moulded bats out of hell. The newcomers, who arrived without cars and have been kitted out from the club’s own extensive collection in a locked wall cupboard – are the first to spin from their slots and come to a halt on the black polythene. The old-timers, some of whom have been racing this gargantuan room-sized layout since it was clipped together a decade ago – manage one, sometimes even two laps. It seems to be rare for more than one car to make it to the finish line. “It’s crash and burn here – we don’t have a marshal to put you back on like some clubs do”, says Smith. Nevertheless, each time a car leaves its moorings, several Brobdingnagian pairs of Hi-Tecs delicately land in the gaps in the track in the scramble to salvage it before a pile-up occurs on the next lap.

The Farnham Scalextric Association is just one of a number of such clubs around the country, and indeed around the world: The National Slot Car Club (, on whose committee Smith sits, boasts more than twelve hundred members as far afield as New Zealand and India. Some of them have been racing since the Minimodels company unveiled its first range of electric slot-cars at the Harrogate Toy Fair in 1957, others joined much later in the day. Few have a collection as big as Smith’s.

An unassuming chap whose ginger beard is clipped as neatly as the lawn of his immaculate Surrey home, Smith has always been passionate about cars, both big and small. In his garage you will find a 1935 Bentley and an Aston Martin V8 Advantage, both of them in mint condition - “I was fortunate enough to be able to cash in my company BMW a few years ago, and it struck me that if I got a Golf for everday use, I could have the Aston Martin I always wanted.” But the real fleet can be found upstairs: one entire room of his immaculate house is devoted to his Scalextric collection, which numbers more than 1500 cars. Samples from every period of the toy’s 45-year history are stacked in glass-fronted display cabinets which reach from floor to ceiling, blocking all natural light from the room. A walk-in cupboard houses some box sets, examples of tracks from different periods (the materials used have changed three times, though a strict policy of backward compatibility and some nifty adapters mean you can quite happily race a 2003 C2392 Mercedes CLKDTM on a rubber track from the 1950s), and track-side furniture based on the real-life layout at Goodwood. Big plastic buckets contain tyres and engine parts salvaged from wrecked cars to be used in repair jobs, while a filing cabinet holds his collection of catalogues, dating back “some forty-odd years. Well actually, it’s forty-four.” A specially-bought PC in the corner is hooked up to an electronic test-bed which he uses to tune his motors, while a significant part of his loft is taken up by his collection of boxed sets, ranging from a legendary 1967 James Bond Aston Martin set, complete with ejector seat and original artwork by Michael Turner, to a GT Pursuit set which only arrived in Toys’R’Us a few days ago, promptly to be snapped up by Smith. “It happens quite often that Hornby produce special sets for the big retailers which are not publicised, and someone will give me a call and say ‘did you know about this?’, and I’m straight down there to pick one up.”

The collection is stored strictly by make of car: thus the Batmobile (a tie-in with Tim Burton’s 1989 movie) is kept on the opposite side of the room from the Joker’s pink monstrosity, which is based on a Porsche moulding. Smith regards both of these with distaste (though he is proud of the unique translucent resin prototype Batmobile shell he acquired directly from the factory), though not with quite the contempt he reserves for the set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on skateboards or the Power Rangers motorbikes and sidecars, “aberrations” Scalextric produced during a rough patch in the 1980s. “They were hit hard by the introduction of computer games, and fewer sales meant less money went into production, so you ended up with what was basically little plastic blobs, plus they went off in a few strange directions before they got back on track when people started to want more interactive, touchy-feely toys in the 1990s.” More pleasing is his collection of 1960s Formula Juniors, Porsches and Ferraris, some of which date back to his own childhood and some of which, as he puts it, “are the ones I got because I couldn’t afford them as a kid.” Many of his cars were acquired at toy fairs and NSCC swap meets, to which his wife accompanies him “as a sort of mobile banker – ‘you’ve now spent this much.’” Others have turned up at car boot sales or auctions for just a few quid (“you develop a good poker face”), but he admits that “Ebay has changed the face of collecting. I used to bring back a carload of stuff every weekend from junk sales, but now it’s mostly online. Plus the things that I’m looking for now are rarer and harder to find.”

The one thing you won’t find anywhere in Smith’s home is a track you can actually play on. “The racing side doesn’t really interest me, to be honest,” he confesses. “I like the sociability of meetings in Farnham, but racing isn’t really my cup of tea. Besides, it’s no fun on your own.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

This week's Friday treat...

BOTH full sets of Horror top trumps.

SCREAM! As you look into the eyes, impractically large teeth and hitherto-unexpectedly lizardy visage of Death!
QUAKE! As you question why the Hangman is obviously Lon Chaney in the Phantom of the Opera, when the Phantom of the Opera isn't!
SHUDDER! At the fact that Venusian Death Cell is so blatantly a sea devil off of Doctor Who!
FINALLY RECOGNISE! The obscure Edgar Allen Poe reference on Prince of Darkness!
HOPE! You don't get landed with Man Eating Plant!
WONDER! What Kit Ward is doing these days and if he still tries to give away Dracula despite his 100 Horror Rating because he's scared he might climb out of the card and get him!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Eye eye

"You know already that for me, this isn't a political agenda but a personal mission. Last year in Bournemouth I told you how when I was 16, I got injured playing rugby and lost the sight forever in my left eye. I knew I couldn't play football or rugby anymore. But I could still read.

But what I didn't tell you last year was that then one morning I woke up and realised my sight was going in my good eye. I had another operation and lay in the darkness for days on end. At that point my future was books on tape. But thanks to the NHS, my sight was saved by care my parents could never have afforded."

So what's he saving up for next year, in the unlikely event that he's still around?

"What I've neglected to mention until now is that shortly after that, one of my legs fell off..."

Monday, September 22, 2008

"One of the finest posts I have ever had the pleasure to read"

Here's a good article by William Leith about blurbing (presumably the one about the equally common promotional practice of getting your editor friends to commission pieces plugging your new book will follow soon).

Want to know a secret? See that book over there? The one that radio's Sandi Toksvig called "a thoroughly-entertaining rummage through the life and times of one of Britain's most eccentric businessmen?" She hadn't read it at the time. But she'd promised me a blurb, and when I offered her the manuscript, she freaked out, told me she was judging the Orange prize and reading an average of a dozen books a week, couldn't possibly take on mine as well, but was happy to put her name to anything I drafted.

"Not as good as The Littlest Viking" - Adam Macqueen

The Independent on Sunday, now edited by Garry Bushell

Nice to see the home of the pink list giving it the old nudge, nudge in their media diary column yesterday...

Just the man for the job!

Eyebrows aloft at 'The Daily Telegraph', which for the first time in its history has a royal editor. The post is one traditionally only found among Fleet Street's red tops. The lucky debut incumbent is Andrew Pierce, the sociable former 'Times' and 'News of the World' scribe. Pierce is certainly the right man for the job: as he says, his knowledge of British queens is intimate.

Eh? Eh? Know warra'mean?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Free books!

Hey, you know that other book, by the way? My novel that was supposed to be coming out earlier this year? Only the publishers went bankrupt?

If you want to read it for free, you can do so here. For those of you who like paper and ink and stuff, there's a link to Lulu where you can buy a spiffy paperback for £12.99.

A historic announcement

In October 2011, Private Eye will be 50. And we're going to be celebrating with a full, lavishly illustrated, no-holds-barred, warts-and-all, kiss-and-tell, filth-and-fury, rag-and-bone, cut-and-paste history of the magazine's five decades.

Guess which idiot they've commissioned to write it?

Look out for a sister blog to this one which should soon appear as part of the official Private Eye website, on which I'll be updating my mum, the three men and a dog that look at it on my progress, as well as appealing for memories, memorabilia, opinions, spare change, unwanted sandwiches etc. from readers along the way.

Plus throwing in the odd fact and figure to whet your appetite. Such as the fact that an undergraduate Ian Hislop was an extra in studio-destroying 1980 flop epic Heaven's Gate.

Cafe Rene

Yonks ago, Rene Lavanchy came in and did work experience for us at Private Eye. Unlike most of the wide-eyed, workshy, "well it was this or a TEFL course" English graduates who darken our doorstep only to disappear into the ether never to be heard of again, he's hacking away valiantly, currently mostly for Tribune. He does the odd bit and piece for us too. And very good they are too.

He also had the best-coloured hair.

And he too has one of these blog things, as well he should, because he's a happy-slapping, blue-toothing, knife-criming, facebooking youth of today. He asked me to show it to you, and here it is.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Personally I'm waiting for the porn remake - Black Holes: Large Hardon Collider

How the hell did Andrew Marr resist the temptation, on Radio 4 yesterday morning, to go "and now the moment approaches as the switch is flicked and the proton beam begins toOHMYGODOHMYGODNOPLEASEGODNO" and then do that thing where you put your finger in your cheek and make a popping sound, before suddenly cutting the live link to London?

That's what I would have done, anyway...

Friday, September 05, 2008

This week's Friday treat

Courtesy of Viz, is a herd of fondly-remembered vibrating bum-faced goats.

Monday, September 01, 2008

In other news: Sunny Jim Callaghan not thought to be Prime Minister any more

Is there really anyone in the world that doesn't already know this?

Ancient History (2.2)

Ten years ago last week - yeah, alright, nobody's perfect - I had my first byline in the national press. It was a piece for the Observer's student pull-out, "On Course '98".

It's not very good. And they took out the best gag, about hall of residence rooms that would make Anne Frank feel claustrophobic. But sheesh, I was proud.

Should I switch to long trousers now?


So what now? Suddenly the single most important thing in the known universe for the past two years has been reduced to a few little letters on a tatty sheet of paper. And one month from now comes a great leap into the rest of your life, and then... what?

The overwhelming feeling that affects most soon-to-be students is that they have no idea what to expect. Most have little conception of what university will be like beyond the image given out by boastful siblings, a few bank adverts and the advice of a careers officer who went to university when you paid in the student bar with a ration book. Let's get one thing clear: it's nothing like Saved By The Bell - The College Years. Unless, you get really unlucky.

I asked sixth formers at James Alleyn Girls School, Dulwich, and Sidcot School, Somerset, about their fears:

'I'm worried about money. I always thought when I finished at school I'd be independent.' Tuition fees are a new area of stress this year. Labour, clearly irked by accusations that they had forgotten their roots of support in the working classes, decided to redress the balance by being absolute bastards to the middle classes as well. In the face of pounds 1,000 extra per annum that dream of independence is replaced with a vision of being shackled to the parental purse strings for another three or four years.

But let's be honest. What else are your parents going to do with it? If you're of university age your folks can't be far off their Honda Civic and beige clothing phase - once you're gone they'll have nothing to do but mope round the house with no one to shout at. And if you're worried that financial dependence on your parents will mean you are less able to branch out and be your own person, just take a look at what independence has down for them!

'I'm worried I'll miss home comforts.' Homesickness, in its most basic sense, is not a problem for most students. After nearly 20 years they, and their parents, can hardly wait to get a bit of their own space. Sure, bouts of flu will never be the same without the comforting maternal hand to mop your brow, but instead you'll have a whole new gang of chums to buy you Benylin and share your germs.

However, most students do find themselves missing the little things about home they took for granted - the opportunity to skank around the house in a grim dressing gown. And until alternatives have been fully explored, no one can really appreciate the importance of a proper TV aerial and a phone that doesn't bleep at you and eat money.

'I'm scared I won't fit in.' However cool you try to be with this one, there is always that feeling of being the new kid in the blazer with room to grow on the first day. You know that there must be people out there like you, but what chance have you got of finding common ground when the small talk is restricted to A-level results and what gosh-how-exciting things people got up to in their years off? Something it's all too easy to forget is that, in all walks of life, it actually takes quite a bit of time to get to know people, and that feeling uneasy is par for the course until you find the other person that knows all the words to your favourite episode of Red Dwarf, or liked Pulp before they were famous. And then you'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

So don't spend too long over selecting what outfit to wear for the first day (and don't pretend you haven't thought about it). Yes, people will judge you by it, and fit you into the sort of stereotypes they've had rammed into their brains by smug articles like this one. But be honest, you'll be doing exactly the same thing with that bloke over there in the rugby shirt... and just look at her in the short skirt.

'I hope my room's nice.' The accommodation pictured in most universities' glossy prospectuses stretches the boundaries of the Advertising Standards guidelines. Yes, from some angles that could be recognised as a first year room in Mandela Hall, but only when you take into account that it was shot from the next county through a fish-eye lens. The next county being where such places as the shops, pub and the actual university are located.

If you've rejected the idea of a campus in favour of city life you might just as well instal your ethnic throws and rubber plant onboard the local bus, as that's where you'll be spending the greater part of your time.

But hey, it's not what you've got, it's what you do with it. Untreated breezeblock walls can be cool in an Ikea sort of way, and listening in (whether or not you want to) on your neighbours' stereos and sex lives can reveal a lot more than the PR exercise of first week smalltalk.

And one last thing. Get some bleach. Because however good your intentions, by the end of the first term you will have had a piss in the sink.

'It's going to be difficult carrying on my relationship.' So you went through the stress of A-levels together. So you went on holiday together this summer, and it was fine. So you've talked it through and you both feel that a long distance relationship will be problematic, but you honestly feel that it would be unfair not to give it a try. So what.

However many pictures you put up of him/her, however many other distraught half-couples you befriend, however much you write in the first week, you'll reach a point where the choice between finding a payphone and doing frankly anything else at all involves no competition. Just wait and see.

Perhaps I am too cynical. After all, I know of two relationships which lasted all through university. Two friends stood by their men right through from Freshers' Week to graduation.

Then they went out into the real world and suddenly realised that when they had to spend any sort of decent amount of time with their boyfriends, they were absolutely sick of them.

'I hope I'm not really thick compared to the other people on my course.' For goodness sake, you're not to worry about that. You probably won't have any idea how any of your mates are doing up until the degree ceremony itself - unless you decide to go down the smug mutual revision sessions and communal stress path, that is. They don't actually read out the marks in class and award gold stars, you know.

And as for the work - think lower sixth. Think minimum. Think subsidised fun. And when finals come round, get very, very, scared.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sod it, it's the weekend

I have seen the future and it's really, really irritating

Oh god.

Fiona Phillips has announced she's leaving GMTV.

I've got a really horrible feeling she's part of Gordon's September fight-back, isn't she?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Plooks: Code 9

(a terribly clever joke for all our Scottish readers there).

Here's my review of Spooks: Code 9, from the Private Eye that came out last week.

Way back in December 2006, with BBC One’s superlative spy drama Spooks at its height - Ruth had just safely sailed away up the river away from her nailbiting will-they-won’t-they-oh-blimey-actually-they-won’t relationship with Harry Pearce, and the pretty boy was busy drowning under the Thames barrier with her off of Cold Feet – BBC Three controller Julian Bellamy announced a spin-off entitled Rogue Spooks as part of his spring season. Eighteen months, one channel controller and a name change later, the resulting show slithers out on Sundays in the middle of August. Has some unintended topicality – a fictional atrocity tragically reflected in reality – caused the scheduling delay? No. Make no mistake: Spooks: Code 9 (you can bet they focus-grouped Codes One through Eight and found they didn’t play well with the 16-24-year-old demographic) is limping out at the bottom of the year because it’s the biggest heap of steaming radioactive waste ever to contaminate the name of a successful brand.

Not, that is, that it’s allowed to get anywhere near its parent programme. To avoid any of the difficult questions thrown up by after-hours Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood (“What’s Captain Jack been doing since he last saw the Doctor, Daddy?” – “Shagging”) Code 9 is set five years in the future, following the abject failure of Harry Pearce’s mob to save London, which has been destroyed in a nuclear explosion. This being a digital channel, it’s a very minor nuclear explosion which takes place mostly in the distance and in the form of various bits of stock footage, allowing for some ghoulishly nostalgic disaster-spotting – “isn’t that Canary Wharf after the IRA bomb? And there are the poll-tax riots!” It also neatly removes any subsequent peril or tension – given that, as the voiceover informs us, unknown terrorists have already “incinerated over 100,000 people and given many more a death sentence through radiation”, you’re left asking, well, what’s the worst that can happen if our heroes fail to save the day?

Not a lot, it would seem – which is fortunate, since the heroes in question are a bunch of pouty 19-year-olds who have been recruited solely on the strength of Big-Brother style audition videos, in which they compete to outdo one another in smuggery. “Terrorists are getting younger, so you’re probably looking for younger spies,” swaggers one blonde. “Am I right?” Well, no dear, not really. Some older spies with experience in the field and training in how to spot and neutralise potential terrorists, whatever their vintage, might just come in useful. Ah, but they’ve all buggered off, as a helpful character explains in one of the great clunking lists of expository dialogue in which this show excels: “25 per cent of officers wiped out in the bomb. Half the remainder migrating to the private sector.” Really? The disloyal bastards! But not to worry – our trusty band of school-leavers are so achingly patriotic that union flags are sometimes randomly superimposed on their faces – at least until the end of the first episode, when the director got bored and couldn’t be bothered with that particular tic any more.

That innovation aside, it’s cliché all the way: chases take place across roof-tops before villains fail to grasp the proffered hand and plunge to their deaths; deceased characters leave valedictory videos which point out “if you’re watching this, I must be dead” and both sexual tension and menace are signified by characters standing halitosis-inhalingly close to one another and wiggling their eyebrows a lot. Regular shots of barbed wire, ID cards and surveillance cameras are intended to establish the Big Brother theme that is obviously going to be the series’ big revelation (“you mean we’re not the good guys after all?”) but just serve to remind viewers what an editorial standby the cut to black-and-white CCTV has become. Even the trick of killing off a major character early in the story, as shockingly introduced by grown-up Spooks and recycled in the aforementioned Torchwood, is no longer remotely surprising, although the intended cries of “I can’t believe they did that!” duly erupt when the corpse is replaced as unit leader by a gawky teen who has been a spy for slightly under 24 hours.

The real shock, however, is the quality of the spin-off’s spin-offs: because this is BBC Three we are in the realm of 360-degree commissioning and multi-platform gubbins, which in this case boils down to a diverting fake “news from 2013” website and an impressive choose-your-own-adventure game which allows you to scan in your own face and play as a moving, breathing character in a tale that is far more exciting than anything on the marginally-bigger screen. Since original ideas, convincing plots, decent dialogue and half-capable actors seem to be beyond the grasp of BBC Three’s drama department, might they be better off – not to mention more in tune with their target audience – just abandoning around 270 degrees of their commissioning process and concentrating on becoming a quite capable little computer games developer instead?


Friday, August 22, 2008

Here's odd.

Yes, I've been googling myself. Tragic, isn't it?

My interview with Cher, 7 years ago.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Books (partially) written by me which actually are going to come out this year



Notes to editors

Three memories of the PR industry dating from my brief career in celebrity journalism, inspired by reading the memoirs of Mark Frith – look into those eyes and feel your soul begin to ebb away – in this week’s Daily Mail.

1. The record company publicist, who, when informed that this was a really really bad time to call and the only reason I’d picked up the phone at all was because I thought she might be the libel lawyer with the vital piece of information I needed before press deadline in a matter of minutes – pitched thus: “it’s alright, this won’t take long, I just wanted to check you’d got the press pack I sent over for Miss-Teeq? You did? And what did you think of the sampler? And would you consider them for a cover? You wouldn’t? That really surprises me, because we thought they’d be a perfect fit for The Big Issue, because, you know, they’re from the streets. I mean obviously, I don’t mean they’re actually homeless.”

2. The brutally honest lady at Henry’s House, who when pressed for why she wouldn’t give us an interview with Will Young after he won Pop Idol in 2002 (even when I hit her with the usual “but if you say no, TRAMPS WILL STARVE” schtick), admitted: “to be honest he’s quite dull. We’re holding him back until he’s got a bit more to say.”

3. The rather less convincing PR for the MOBO awards, to whom, in an attempt to get any human reaction from her whatsoever, I repeated the story about John Mckie from Smash Hits throwing up all over Mariah Carey. “Mariah was so nice about it,” she beamed, glassy-eyed. D'you think she was telling the truth, boys and girls?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Will no one think of the Goths?

Worst result of Peaches Geldof's Vegas wedding? According to the Mirror:

A pal of Crestfallen Faris Badwan, 21, said "He feels he's been made a bit of a laughing stock during all of this."

Lead singer of the Horrors? A laughing stock? Never!

Although the Sun says he was staying over at her house the night before last, so someone's "pal", somewhere, is telling porkies...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

You know you are getting old when...

... the names of new Radio 1 DJs just start to look like spelling mistakes.

In other changes to the station's music output, which will come into effect in October, Kutski gets a new hard dance and hardcore show at 1am on Saturday morning.

Kutsi will be followed by another new show, 1Xtra DJ MistaJam's 1Xtra Mixtape, at 3am.

Kissy Sell Out, with a jump-up rock and rave show, replaces Halliwell at midnight on Thursdays, while newcomers Heidi Van den Amstel and Jaymo & Andy George join the rota of presenters on the In New DJs We Trust slot at 2am on Friday mornings.

You can, incidentally, date anyone by which DJs were on the front of their Which Way Now? booklet they were given by their careers teacher prior to choosing their GCSE/O-level options. Mine? Bruno Brookes and the Rankin' Miss P. Yours?

How insensitive can you get?

Not only did John Leslie dare to visit the same county that his ex lives in, he allowed a newspaper to publish something at a very difficult time for her:

Coming as the interview did in the month of Isabelle's second birthday, the timing could be seen as particularly thoughtless and infuriating.

I can reveal that he also callously sometimes watches the same television programmes as she does, heartlessly uses the same supermarket chain she prefers and, perhaps most shockingly, continues to drive a car despite the fact that this has long been her own preferred method of travelling large distances. The bastard.

Standby to reverse ferret...

The Sun knew exactly what line to take on fit-up victim Colin Stagg's compensation payout this morning:

Fury erupted last night as wrongly-accused murder suspect Colin Stagg was awarded £706,000... Danny Biddle, 28, who lost his legs, an eye and spleen because of 7/7 but was awarded only £118,000, said: “Our system is disgraceful.”

Stagg’s compo is far above that of Rachel’s little son Alex, who witnessed the horrific murder.

And then came the reaction from readers on the paper's website:

People need to take a step back here this guy was not guilty... posted by [RolanTheRat]
This guys life was ruined, he deserves the payout posted by [Mark2805]
I cannot imagine how horrific it would be to spend even one ... posted by [Thrasymacus]
hey wait a minute this guy deserves even more than that like... posted by [makalugirl]
Yes the award given to Stagg is generous, to say the least, ... posted by [Jay_B]
Whats all the fuss about??..this guy has had his life ruined... posted by [tommyhanson]
in fact colin go and have a bloody good few lagers and live ... posted by [makalugirl]
Yeah, he deserves every penny. You cant compare this to the ... posted by [kenny26]
16 years of life ruined £706,000 divided by 16 £44,125... posted by [BigDave1971]
if it was a fit up by the old bill and he is definetly innoc... posted by [number0ne]
Colin Stagg was proved not guilty and is now according to hi... posted by [rogtann]
Rolan you are talking absolute nonsense. Ok so he was innoc... posted by [Robw548]
BigDave's right, the cops have ruined this guy's entire life... posted by [littlemermaidwoo]
I don't have a problem with Colin Stagg receiving that amoun... posted by [tillytuppence]
This is absolutely right. The poor lad spent a year in jail ... posted by [Evansdad]
the police got a bee in their bonnet over him,but because he... posted by [man2]
Bigdave1971 Well done and I totally agree posted by [smokeyboy157]
Robw548- this is gonna sound harsh but whilst I have the hug... posted by [mamamirabelle]
Where are the police officers who investigated this injustic... posted by [gsouness]
What is the problemin him receiving this payout. For a de... posted by [Huggy_Bear]

I wonder if Rebekah's already commissioned the "At home with poor Colin as he tries to rebuild his shattered life" piece?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thoughts on reading OK! magazine's coverage of the secret castle wedding of Gareth Gates

Is there any picture caption in the world more depressing than "The bride and groom with Dane Bowers"?

Friday, August 01, 2008

I'm very very late with this...

... the internet is so big, and my speed-reading so very slow, but this made me laugh a lot (as well as making an extremely good point)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

If it makes your brain hurt, just look at the nipples instead

From the BBC "news" site:

Teen soap Hollyoaks is launching an online drama which will feature on the Channel 4 show and run on the website.

Characters in the C4 soap will be seen talking about new comedy-drama Runners and watching clips on the internet... Runners will be filmed in London and will include sequences shot at key showbusiness events such as the Brit Awards.

That's not a soap opera, that's a full-on mess-with-the-viewers'-entire-sense-of-reality! It was weird enough when the real Andrew Lloyd Weber was on it auditioning a fictional girl called Summer for a part in the Sound of Music who then appeared in the Sound of Music ONLY SHE WAS REAL!

Presumably next step is to have Hollyoaks characters break off mid-scene and stare straight into the camera making scathing comments about actual things actual viewers are actually doing at home while watching Hollyoaks... which, let's face it, would be brilliant, but probably only suitable for the late-night "In The City" version.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Christ, you mean they're MY age?

The most interesting thing in today's Ofcom adjudication on listener deception on Jo Whiley's show - you know, the one where they pre-recorded the show twice, and faked the phone-in competitions with BBC staff pretending to be members of the public talking to Jo Whiley because there was no way listeners could take part, but at NO TIME did Jo Whiley know anything about any deception?

Jo Whiley was a live, music-based programme, which included interviews and other features. It was broadcast on Radio 1 on weekdays from 10:00 to 12:45. During the second quarter of 2006, the programme’s average total audience was 1.55 million and the average age of the audience was 33.

Radio One's target audience? 16-24 year olds.

Jo Whiley is 43. But - and if you have buttocks, prepare to clench them in embarrassment now - she has a regular feature on her show entitled "What Rox, What Sux".

Hi its of im in the rub where u?

From Press Gazette:

A local newspaper chief sub-editor has won £20,000 for being wrongfully dismissed after he drunkenly sent a personal late-night text message to a female junior colleague.

Bet he still made sure all the apostrophes were in the right place...

I'm not saying I left Somerset because of the paucity of aspiration among the locals, but...

From The Sun's coverage of the aftermath of the fire on Weston pier:

Jubilant Nicola Hesketh, 27, of Milton, Somerset, said after emerging from the waves: “Something like this doesn’t happen every day.

“I found a massive can of peaches and three £1 coins.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Realising that Carla Bruni won't even look in their direction whatever they do, British media transfers hopeless crush to another target

Not wanting to come over all Biarsed BBC here, but why the hell is the UK's main evening news bulletin being co-anchored from the capital of Germany, on the grounds that a man who isn't the President of America is visiting there?

Number Crunching

£54,500 = damages handed out, per paper, for implying (entirely falsely) that a man was a paedophile and guilty of the abduction and possible murder of a three-year-old
£60,000 = damages handed out, per paper, for revealing (entirely truthfully) that a man likes to pay prostitutes to tie him up and spank his bottom until he bleeds

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

BANG! And the pants are gone...

Good crikey. Someone at the Sun has gone back to their piece on skinny-dippers since I wrote the post below, and actually photo-shopped the underwear which was utterly undeniably present in every single photograph out. Apart from the bottom one, which they've just cropped in to hide the fact that "Steven" had merely rolled down his shorts to show the top of his bum-cheeks, and not done quite well enough to hide the fact that "Sasha" is still wearing her bikini bottoms...

Questions arising:

a) Did the owners of the swimming pool where Love It! took the original pictures refuse to let the models go nuddy, or did someone invoke the infamous News International "No Fur" rule at the last minute?

b) Did Love It! accidentally send over the originals when the Sun's Features Desk requested shots for their inter-stable cross-promotion-fest?

c) Why didn't anyone notice before they first put them online?

d) Am I taking far too much so-called-professional interest in this?

At least they've done a better photoshop job than this atrocity.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Am I missing something here? Or are they not?

Good use of headline to draw readers in - but don't the pictures reveal quite a major factual inaccuracy in the Sun's hot exclusive on "sexy skinny-dippers?"

Monday, July 21, 2008

They're being cleared... now. No... now. No...

"Mr and Mrs McCann's spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said the couple would not comment in advance of the attorney general's official statement. He added: "Obviously they are aware of numerous reports suggesting that the case is about to be shelved."

And how!

“McCanns ‘will be cleared by Xmas’”
Daily Star, 2 December 2007

“McCanns to be cleared”
Daily Star Sunday, 10 Feb 2008

“The McCanns have cleared their name.”
Times, 20 March

“Cleared: Cops to drop Kate and Gerry arguido claim”
People, 6 April

“McCanns Exclusive: Couple clear”
People, 13 April

“McCanns ‘in clear’”
Mirror, 10 May

“McCanns to be cleared as police close case”
Telegraph, 2 July

“McCanns ‘to be cleared’”
Mirror, 18 July

“Madeleine parents ‘set to be cleared’”
Press Association, 21 July

Personally, I think the whole thing might be the work of the same person that assasinated Bob Woolmer.

Has anyone ever actually said anything like this?

From the Daily Star's Amy Winehouse story this morning:

One drinker said: “It didn’t look like the actions of a woman about to pull herself out of her drugs hell anytime soon.”

The onlooker then made her excuses and headed off for a kinky love-romp.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The little man inside the radio is talking to me!

For about two years, I was a regular co-presenter on Sandi Toksvig's show on LBC. I also used to make regular appearances on Simon Mayo's show on Five Live, have attempted to plug various publications on just about every BBC local radio station the length and breadth of the land, and was once interviewed by Chris Evans live on Radio 2. And I've turned down two appearances on the Today programme, because their idea of what they wanted me to talk about was just really, really rubbish.

Ooh, get me.

The point of all this shameless boasting is that last night I got a text read out on my new favourite radio programme, Radcliffe and Maconie on Radio 2, and I was more ridiculously, absurdly chuffed than I was about all the above put together. Honestly, I couldn't have been happier if I'd just won Smiley Miley's Milage Game.

Thursday's show, about 17 minutes in, if you're interested. Just after the Fun Boy Three. It's about pies and Edward Woodward. As, really, is my life.

Number Crunching

10 = number of journalists recruited for launch of Big Issue India
6 = number of journalists (including two subs) currently working on Big Issue in England

Apparently John Bird's "sending in an editorial team from the UK to help guide the launch", too, so presumably while they're out there the London edition will be produced by two vendors and a dog.

17 = years after the launch of The Big Issue it took John Bird to attempt to launch an edition in India, a country with 170 million homeless people
6 = years after the launch of The Big Issue it took John Bird to attempt to launch an edition in LA, where he went to live for several years

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A couple from the new Private Eye, out now...

The director's cut...

So how, exactly, did the Daily Mail’s publishers manage to lose a laptop containing the personal and bank details of “a large number” of their current and former employees (only those who have joined the company in the last two months are guaranteed safe) after several months spent denouncing various government departments for “criminal carelessness”, “fathomless and inexhaustible incompetence” and “quite inexcusable sloppiness” over similar cock-ups?

The laptop was, apparently, “stolen from an employee away from company premises” – just like the MoD laptop which was taken from a car in Birmingham in January, in what the Mail described as a “fiasco” which would provide “a treasure trove” to criminals. “You could not make it up,” the paper stormed at the time. “The blunders have led to a ban on Whitehall staff taking laptops out of their offices…Incredibly, the information was not encrypted - meaning it would be easily accessed by anyone with basic technological knowledge.” And what of the data on the Mail’s own laptop? “The PC was password protected, but the data file itself was not,” admitted a shamefaced Simon Dyson, the Associated Newspapers group finance director, this week. And why not? “In this particular case, the employee in question was unaware that the data was on the laptop before leaving the building and for this reason the data was not held in an encrypted state.”

Because no one at Associated had any idea of what was on the computer, managers delayed more than a week before telling anyone their bank accounts and identities were at risk. By a pleasing coincidence, the Mail managed in the meantime to run yet another article castigating Gordon Brown for “the Government's woefully inadequate care of sensitive data.”

And from the TV pages:

In the last Eye we suggested that the Wuaorani tribe of Ecuador, hosts of one of the episodes of BBC2’s Tribal Wives, had been featured on television so often that “it would be no surprise if the elders had DVD adverts painted on their foreheads in woad.” While this turned out not quite to be the case, since the programme was broadcast the Eye has been provided with some interesting information about Penti, the tribal leader who featured in the programme alongside his wife and seven children – namely, his email address, which outsiders have long been invited to use “to find out how you can help or to express interest in visiting the Wuaorani.”

And what of the Kuna, another tribe which featured in the series which promises to transport participants to “some of the most remote places on earth” to experience life alongside the locals “in a way that has never been explored before”? Well, they recommend booking flights and hotels in their homeland, the Archipielago de San Blas, as far ahead as possible, though the Lonely Planet guide to Panama, which features an entire chapter devoted to the commercially-astute tribe, points out that “most hotels offer complete packages, where a fixed price gets you a room, three meals a day and boat rides to neighbouring islands for swimming, snorkeling and lunching on the beach.” Since the 1960s Air Panama has been offering a daily flight to the area, stopping at six of the inhabited islands, while rival operator Aeroperlas currently runs three per day. There is a tourist visitation fee of $3-$5 dollars per island, and it is best to stock up on cash before departure as there are no ATMs in the area (although coin-operated telephones for domestic and international calls are apparently plentiful).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Saturday, July 05, 2008

What web 2.0 was invented for

I know I'm late with this, but those of you without a Sky subscription and access to the Bedroom TV channel deserve the opportunity to stumble across the best thing you'll ever channel-surf open-mouthed onto this side of the Bhangra channels.

For a full set of Ian Lorenc's videos, click here. His version of the Texas song - in which he gets tied to a railway line and does nothing other than look quite stroppy about it - is infinitely superior to the original, Alan Rickman notwithstanding.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Arse and bollocks

Don't you just hate it when people who have your fax number also have the media guardian's?

There goes next week's best story...

Quick Quentin, fire up Wikipedia, the whole of page 15's fallen through!

How long do you think it took Quentin Letts to write this?

Including the time it took him to cut and paste things when someone pointed out the middle section was just a list of all the actors in order and it might look better if he swopped them around a bit?

He could have stopped 50 words earlier and left room for a pullquote. His description of Russel T Davies in paragraph 18 would have been ideal: "an irksome little man with too high an opinion of himself".

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Daily Mail Island. Now realer than ever.

I know nothing about Second Life.

But anyone that does, nip in to the virtual Daily Mail office that's just been built there, seek out the virtual Paul Dacre who appears in this video at about 1'13", and give him a virtual slap from me, would you?

"...where she was joined by busty, pouting rape victim Jane Doe..."

Has there ever been a crasser phrase in a tabloid intro than "Telly's grieving Brooke Kinsella" on the front page of today's Sun?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Gordon celebrates a talented young lad turning 15

Shouldn't his boss Rebekah Wade be naming and shaming him for this?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Who wants to see Kay Burley having a fight?

Watch Kay Burley put some of those skills Frank Partridge taught her to good use outside Uxbridge magistrates court in Sky's own footage here. Enda "my parents were dyslexic and hoping for a girl" Brady manages not to mention it in the voiceover, but you can clearly see at around 1.10 the moment when la Burley realises her cunning plan of hiding round the corner and barging into the crowd shouting "let me through, I'm a close personal friend" hasn't worked, and unleashes hell.

Full stills of girl-on-girl action available, as ever, on the Daily Mail website.