Friday, January 30, 2009

Nostalgic for David Montgomery

... possibly not a feeling anyone else in the world has ever experienced.

This afternoon I've been writing a piece for Private Eye about the man who was booted out as boss of the Mirror and Independent ten years ago this week.

He was the subject of the very first thing I ever wrote for the Eye way back on work experience in October 1997. And, by the magic of our in-house archive, here it is:

David 'Rommel' Montgomery might want to rethink his plans for the Mirror Group's 'Academy of Excellence', which include the proposal to do away with sub editors and allow writers full control over their blatherings that appear on the page.

Presumably this would allow more stories like the 'Benn Video Turns Nasty' piece that appeared in the Mirror on 30 September. It concerned Tony Benn's video diary of the Labour conference which was shown on the BBC's Newsnight. And according to the Mirror hack, this kind of work is entirely unacceptable 'in traditional circles.' In fact the piece found 'one reporter' who claimed that Benn's readiness with a camcorder was 'a disgrace to trade unionism... Multi skilling is the source of our industry, leading to unemployment right across journalism.'

Presumably, judging by Montgomery's recent form, the anonymous hack will be the first to join those statistics.

Plus ca change... we were all confidently predicting the Indy would be closed by Christmas then, too.

Not a million miles from Westward Ho!

Well, I guess the prominent coverage of the story that Birmingham City Council have banned apostrophes is a welcome sign that not every paper has got rid of their sub-editors.

I wonder if the Municipality of 's-Hertogenbosh will follow suit?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

EMMA WATSON once stubbed her toe, and RUPERT GRINT is a ginger

Gawd bless the Mirror for trying, but even they don't sound very convinced by the 'Curse of Harry Potter'. "Special-effects mistakes halted filming"?

Tomorrow: the Curse of Last of the Summer Wine, which has mysteriously carried off half the cast of the 36-year-long sitcom when they were only their 70s or 80s...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


From the Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice:

6 *Children
i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.

From the front page of the Daily Mail this morning:

(the picture, not the latest tale of 'evil social workers')

Want to see what the rest of Brad Pitt's kids look like? Collect the set!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Most unexpected thing found so far in research for the history of Private Eye, part 2

From the Colour Section, Eye 401, 29 April 1977.

Aware of the huge amount of money to be made, wizards at the BBC special effects department are desperately trying to create a successor to the famous Daleks which used to feature in Dr Who.
The best they have come up with so far is a mechanical robot dog, called - K9.
Woof, woof."

A geek notes: the K9 prop made his studio debut on 10th April 1977. He was not unveiled to the press until June.

(Part one is here)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts on watching the inauguration of Barack Obama as 44th President of the United States

... God, I really hate Huw Edwards...

Brooking no dissent

I'm thinking of hiring myself out as a consultant to television productions, pointing out the bleeding obvious.

"The format of the show is cleaner and less complicated with just three judges, which was not fully appreciated ahead of filming," a spokeswoman for Talkbackthames said.

"Although Kelly brings a huge amount of warmth to the show and we've loved having her on board, the complications it adds to the filming process and format of the show means that unfortunately, and with huge regret, we have agreed with ITV not to proceed with a fourth judge."

Now I've seen about five minutes of Britain's Got Talent, but even I could see it was based on three judges voting people through to the next round or not. So if two of them put up their big red Xs, it didn't matter how much Amanda Holden cried, because it was two against one.

Well done to them for soldiering on for a full six days of filming though, most of which presumably consisted of Simon Cowell sighing and reaching for a coin to flip over and over again. I'd be quite cross if I was one of the people who'd auditioned whose stuff will have to be junked now, even if they were told they were through to the second round.

I could have sat in on the commissioning meeting for last night's Heston Blumenthal thing, Big Chef Takes On Little Chef, too, and shouted really loudly IT'S A SHIT IDEA AND IT WON'T WORK.

Cat fight

"Dear YouTube user.
Your video, Disco Kittens, may have content that is owned or licensed by WMG.
No action is required on your part; however, if you are interested in learning how this affects your video, please visit the Content ID Matches section of your account for more information.
- The YouTube Team"

Sorry, Madonna fans. If you want to listen to Madonna's "Hung Up" - you know, the one that's mostly an old Abba track - you'll just have to buy a copy. Yes, I know we'd all prefer to only be able to listen to a tinny version of about a minute-and-a-half of it in the background of a several-years-old video of my cats chasing a feather toy on a stick when we've got broadband access. But you're just going to have to go out and get the CD instead. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Cringe-alike

Which one of these do you find the most buttock-clenchingly embarrassing?

It's enough to make you feel sorry for Andrew Lloyd Webber. And the state of journalism.

The correct answer is (B) - the second pair would be better at producing a showbusiness column.

Hardcore hypoc*it*s

Front page of the Daily Express (prop. Richard Desmond) this morning: "Swearing Now the Blight of Britain: How TV is degrading our public life".

Top programme on Television X (prop. Richard Desmond) tonight: "Cunt Lust"

And they'll still be going on about it when she's got granddaughters herself

Autocorrect. It's a wonderful thing. I once set it on my flatmate's computer so that every time he typed his name it would replace it with the words "useless fuckwit" and he - and everyone he corresponded with - was confused for ages.

The Daily Mail appear to have it set up on all their systems so that every time anyone types the word "BBC" it swiftly adds ", still reeling from the fallout of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand's obscene phone messages to Andrew Sachs, 78."

No matter how totally and utterly irrelevant it might be.

Obviously, though, they switch it off when they're offering old BBC programmes as freebies to try to make people buy their newspaper.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Thanks be to Ludd

Apparently, I'm running the initiation ceremonies at the BBC now.

Mail takes silver

Nice to see the Daily Mail's subscription hasn't lapsed.

Revealed: Blair demanded new picture of himself on US Medal.

Revealed, that is, in the edition of Private Eye that came out on Wednesday. By me, and a freelancer with a hitherto unsuspected numismatic bent.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Come on darling, do it for daddy...

Have a look at this rather depressing piece by Jeremy Vine from today's Mail. Note how it's impossible to read without hearing him doing his "and now a, pause, SERIOUS voice" in your head. When you've got that out of your system, go back and look at the pictures.

There's a whole hidden industry in these. Go to any stock picture library and bash a phrase like "child abuse" into the search box (I don't advise doing this anywhere other than a stock picture library - the police don't look kindly on the Pete Townshend defence). You'll find snap after snap of children cowering wretchedly, squatting in nightwear, clutching tattered teddy bears or displaying their tear-stains in NSPCC-standard black and white, every single one of them marked "Model Released" and ready to be slotted neatly into whatever context complete strangers might have in mind for them. And in every case, there was a parent or guardian standing somewhere behind the camera saying "that's it darling! You're doing really well! Now pretend a nasty man's been touching you down there!"

Bearing in mind that this is about four hundred rungs beneath skipping about and grinning gap-toothedly on Britain's Got Talent or trying out for Tiny Tot 2 in Werthers Original: The Revenge, just what the hell sort of a pushy stage-school parent puts their kids through this? And how many trips to Disneyland do you think it takes before their consciences are salved?

Things I would use as a stepping-off point for a whimisical newspaper column, if I had one - No.1

The only reason Charles Darwin, whose bicentenary is currently being celebrated,had so much leisure time to muck about with animals and theories of evolution was because he was an heir to Josiah Wedgewood, whose business has just gone into administration.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Shooting sheep in a barrel

"He is put off, though, when I tell him about my animals; particularly my anecdote about the fact I've trained my three lambs to kiss me on the mouth."

Must, must, MUST stop reading her in 2009... it's like taking the piss out of Geri Halliwell, far too easy.