Friday, 30 October 2009

Up Yours Moyles, the Gays Have It

Picture illustrating the paper version of this article in the Guardian.
In a fast-changing digital world in which most traditional media are struggling to adapt, BBC Radio 4 has bucked the trend, posting its highest listener numbers for a decade over the summer months.


Today – which has refreshed its presenter line-up over the last 18 months with Evan Davis and Justin Webb joining the breakfast programme team – gained 95,000 listeners on the previous quarter to reach 6.6m an average each week, an increase of nearly 500,000 on the same time last year. Today's 16.8% share was its highest ever.


With Moyles losing 679,000 listeners over the same period, his audience of 7.04m put him 718,000 adrift of Wogan compared with a 213,000 gap in the second quarter.
Chris Moyles, who presents the morning show on BBC Radio 1, has made several homophobic comments on air. Evans Davies is the gay presenter of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Vigil Against Hate Crime - 30 October

On Friday 25th September 2009, Ian Baynham, 62, and his friend were subjected to homophobic abuse in Trafalgar Square, London. When Ian challenged this unacceptable behaviour he was assaulted by three youths: two women and a man. He later died of his injuries on 13th October.

On Sunday 25 Ocotber, James Parkes, 22, an off-duty trainee police officer, was set upon by a group of up to 20 teenagers in the heart of the gay quarter of Liverpool. James was with his partner, another man and a woman when he was attacked. One of his companions was punched in the face. James is now fighting for his life with multiple skull fractures and other injuries.

Ian and James are sadly not alone; They are two among thousands of people who have been victims of hate crime. In London alone, 1,192 homophobic offences were reported in the year to September 09, up from 1,008 the previous year - a rise of 18.3%. That's an average of almost 3 per day!

People from all communities are invited to come together on Friday 30th October to stand up and say that Hate Crime is unacceptable and that we will no longer tolerate it.

The yigil, which has received high-profile support and will be hosted by Sandi Toksvig, will include speakers from a wide cross section of the community, and musical contributions from a mass choir bringing together members of the LGBT choir of London, Brighton and Hove, Birmingham and Manchester as well as the London Gay Symphonic Winds.

Those unable to attend the event in person, wherever they are in the world, are invited to light candles of hope and observe the two minutes silence, preferably at 9pm GMT.

The vigil, in Trafalgar Square, will start at 8pm and will last 2 hours.

A website ( and Facebook event have been created for the occasion as well as a Twitter account.

Donations can be made here on PayPal or via a dedicated bank account (Sort Code 40-03-22 Account 41446843).

Volunteers to help organise are also welcome.

A vigil in reaction to the attack on James Parkes will take place on Sunday 1st November at 8 pm on Stanley Street in Liverpool.

Monday, 26 October 2009

RIP Geocities

It's all a bit hazy now but as far as I can remember, sometimes in the late 1990s, after I finally got an Internet connection (pay as go dial up, no doubt) at my parents' house in the middle of nowhere, I started looking at building my own website. Using publisher I put together a couple of pages both in French and in English and looked at a way to put them online. Lots of animated GIFs ensued...

I quickly came across Geocities and Angelfire which offered webhosting for free. I am not even sure those few webpages made it online and there have been several attempt at creating my own site.

In August 2001 when I took over as moderator of my newly founded reading group, I decided that a website would be useful and once again I turned towards Geocities. The site has been online ever since, though it underwent a much needed redesign in 2005, loosing the black background and the GIFs that had been the canons of amateur webdesign a few years before.

For over a decade, Geocities were never very far off in the background as I was teaching myself HTML and webdesign, sinking deeper and deeper into geekdom.

Today, even though I have never been formally trained in that domain, I hold a job as web manager, and it is partly thanks to Geocities.

And today, Yahoo! who has been owning if for several years, has pulled the plug on Geocities. It is more.

A page of the early years of the Internet as a mass media dies today.

Things have and will move a lot since then...

You can read other reminiscences by Geocities geeks on Mashable here.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Thrilled and Inspired

I spent the last two days in a computer room on the second floor of the London College of Communication (LCC), at the Elephant and Castle, a good 10 minutes walk from my garret.

Having started a new job a couple of weeks ago, I am being sent to various training courses (amazingly all within walking distance of what I call home).

This week's was entitled "InDesign, the fundamental". Unexpectedly I found myself seated next to one of my former colleagues at VisitBritain. Small world and all!

We learnt how to create shapes, apply all sorts of rather amateurish (in our hands at least) effects (shadows, glows and embossing) to our documents, create business cards, master pages and style sheets, tables, lay out some text and insert images in the desktop publishing software that seems to have become the new professional tool (replacing Quark).

We were made to collate our efforts into a sort of booklet which we then turned into a pdf file. The results of my own efforts (albeit slightly redacted in the business card section) can seen by clicking on the picture above. Please bear in mind that there were exercises that don't necessarily reflect my taste...

At the end of the course, after being given our certificates, we were asked to fill in assessment forms on the quality of the training. One of questions was whether we felt inspired.

I can't say I was particularly inspired by the course itself. While it was fun to do and the tutor knew her subject, she wasn't the best of communicators and we only really learned about how to use a tool. There was nothing that actually helped develop our creativity as such.

What was thrilling however was to find myself (for the first time) within the walls of the LCC; a building I have passed quite often in the 5 years (?) I have lived in its vicinity.

Walking along the corridors of this temple of art and creativity was quite exciting (and I am not just talking about the cute young things on display at every corner!) and inspiring it was too. I felt slightly wistful at not having had the opportunity or even the idea to take the road those young people had decided to follow. And I felt like signing up and becoming a student again.

They, very thoughtfully, gave us a copy of their prospectus. I think they may see me again soon...

Jan Moir Doesn't Have a Clue (updated twice)

Yesterday and for the second time this week (the first time had to do with Trafigura, and the PR-illiterate law firm Carter-Ruck trying to gag The Guardian and then Parliament (no less) around the publication of the Minton Report), Twitter and other social networking sites flexed their cyber-muscles and ostensibly made a difference in British public life.

It all start with a despicable article by Daily Mail hack Jan Moir about the recent death of Stephen Gately. The article was originally titled "Why there was nothing 'natural' about Stephen Gately's death".

Within half a day, a Facebook group had been created (counting close to 23,000 members at the time of this update; that's more in three days than in the past five years!), the article was retitled "A strange, lonely and troubling death..." at the same time that all adverts were removed from the page, the Press Complaint Commission's website had crashed from receiving over 21,000 complaints, and the mainstream media was picking up the story (see Charlie Brooker and Roy Greenslade).

Since this post was first published, a petition has gone online asking for Moir to be sacked (almost 2000 signatures already) and the Met have received a complaint. Strangely, while everybody is talking about it, the story has received fairly little media coverage (see link at the end) but another columnist in the Daily Mail has taken her colleague to task about her article.

Bowing (only slightly) to the unexpected pressure, Jan Moir, trying to justify her words, released a statement that proved highly patronising and at least as offensive as her article.

In her so-called apology, Moir uses the terms "orchestrated internet campaign" to categorise what happened to her that day. In my view, this shows how little of a clue she has of how new media works.

For what happened to have been orchestrated, there would have to have been someone with a masterplan behind it, having enough influence on 1000's of people. This is clearly not the case and Moir does not provide any hint as to whom may have been responsible for the said orchestration (not that lack of evidence would stop her, as her original article proves only too clearly).

No, what happened is that Moir's own bile has goaded people out of their usual inertia and made them to stand up for decency. The difference with the Neanderthalian times to which Moirs is so clearly harking back, is that while people used to be condemned to scream at the kitchen clock when coming across such inanity as hers, they now have the means to express themselves publicly and create a critical mass of opinion.

This is obviously potentially dangerous; a different kind of mob-rule; and I am sure that some of the comment were sadly just as bad as what they criticised, but this is now a force that has to be reckoned with and thankfully, so far, it seems a force for good.

I think that what happened yesterday however marks another watershed, and one just as positive. Possibly for the first time people have publicly and spontaneously united against a bigot. Yes, there has been demonstrations before but those are usually limited to a smallish interest group and are driven by some level of orchestration.

In this case, straight people, together with LGBT people, decided that enough was enough and made their voices heard. And in a way it had nothing to do with denouncing homophobia but rather plain crass stupidity and nastiness (which is of course what homophobia also is).

Of course, the demographics are still probably quite narrowly defined (probably mostly middle-class liberal) but I want to believe that this heralds the beginnings of a new social attitude where people won't stand for intolerance, no matter who the victim of it is. The signs of a more open and more welcoming society, ready to challenge its moral dinosaurs.

And that, Mr Gately, if nothing else, is a pretty nice legacy.

This post on The Media Blog makes an interesting point on the relation between old and new media coverage of the Moir, Trafigura and Balloon Boy stories. Stephen Fry has also published a long and very eloquent piece on the subject. See also this post by Patrick Harvie MSP (a Facebook and Twitter friend).

This post was first published on 17/10/09 at 9.44am and updated on 18/10/09 at 19:31.

Saturday, 10 October 2009



just uploaded: my 3000th picture on flickr!
View the rest of this set (an art installation in a former tram tunnel) on flickr here.