Simon Hoggart

January 6th, 2014

Today's Guardian commemorated the passing of their parliamentary sketch writer Simon Hoggart by reprinting some of his finer moments. I always liked Hoggart best when he turned his attention to some of the less consequential figures From the back benches:

"Does Sir Peter Tapsell actually exist? I ask the question following his own question – nay, speech – on Wednesday, which was magnificent. It could have been a pastiche of the perfect Tapsell address.

I imagined his words being carved into tablets of polished black basalt, mounted in the British Museum, etched dee

p so that even the partially sighted can feel their way to his eternal wisdom.

Possibly Sir Peter is a mass thought form, created by Tory MPs, for whom he recalls their party as it used to be, and Labour MPs, who wish that it still was. Certainly it is true that the whole House looks forward keenly, yearningly, to his every word.

When the Father of the House arose in the middle of prime minister's questions, a great throb of excitement ran along all benches, rather like the moment in a Victorian seance when the eerie manifestation of a dead Red Indian appeared above the fireplace. This moment of glee was followed, as it always is, by a hushed and expectant silence."

– 14 September 2011

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Oh, (Little) England…

December 31st, 2013

The Daily Mail in a Nutshell:

DAILY MAIL IN A NUTSHELL: Top rated comment - refuses to read... on Twitpic

[Via Memex 1.1]

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'The problem is mass media doesn't have time for small stories'

July 3rd, 2013

David Hepworth says that when it comes to journalism the genius is in the details:

I met a bloke about five years ago who was a TV producer with an interest in music. He said something which made an impression. "All the macro stuff's done. The future is micro, if only you could find a way to pay for it."

There were a couple of moments in last night's Quiet Word evening […] when I saw what he meant. […]

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#guardiancoffee

June 16th, 2013

Alex Hern reckons that #guardiancoffee is the future:

Journalism is dead. Come on, we all know it. The only problem is that it's also kinda useful.

[Via Martin Belam]

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The Grenade of Understanding explodes

November 16th, 2012

Matt Taibbi invited his readers to write a parody of Thomas Friedman's latest column on Syria. His readers rose to the challenge:

[By Richard Rollington]

Iraq was fisted by the United States, and on experiencing such explosive pleasure knocked over a china cabinet while ejaculating acid. Syria's on her knees begging to be next.

Succinct, and surprisingly faithful to the spirit of the source material.

There's a longer, even better, entry quoted by Taibbi, depicting Friedman as Schrodinger's columnist.

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The Newsroom 2, Broadcast News 7

April 30th, 2012

So there I was, having just watched the second trailer for Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom and feeling quietly optimistic that it might be a pretty decent show.1 I've always liked Jeff Daniels, the supporting cast looks fine – not to mention that Jane Fonda looks to be having fun playing her ex-husband – and at least this subject matter might provide a better backdrop for Sorkin's concerns than Studio 60… ever could.

Then I happened upon a comment thread at Ta-Nehisi Coates' weblog devoted to discussing the show's prospects, in which a commenter by the name of jkrusequirk linked to an excerpt from a film about TV journalism that I haven't thought about2 in quite a while but which set the standard Sorkin should aspire to.

I'm referring, of course, to Broadcast News. How the hell did I forget Broadcast News? More to the point, what are the chances Sorkin can reach those sort of heights? Now I'm apprehensive all over again…

[Trailer for The Newsroom via Pop Loser]

  1. Once it finally turns up on DVD over here. See my previous post for more on that issue.
  2. Or seen, come to think of it. In what sort of world does pablum like Picture Perfect show up on free-to-air TV in the UK multiple times a year, whilst we're lucky to see Broadcast News once every 18 months or so?

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The Newsroom

April 2nd, 2012

It's a pity that Aaron Sorkin's new HBO show The Newsroom will presumably be corralled behind the paywall of Sky Atlantic over here in the UK until we finally get a DVD release some time long after the first season ends.12 The trailer for the first episode looks very decent.

[Via Pop Loser]

  1. See, for another example of this phenomenon, Game of Thrones. I've watched six out of ten episodes through at the moment, and it's going to be a long wait for the season 2 box set over here. But well worth it, I'm guessing. Tyrion Lannister is already a bit of a legend, obviously, but I have high hopes for Arya Stark. Please let her grow up and knock some sense into Joffrey before the story is done. Is that too much to ask?
  2. On the other hand, if The Newsroom fizzles out in a season like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip then at least we'll most likely know it before we're being invited to stump up the cost of a box set.

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One bullet wouldn't do the job

January 15th, 2012

H.L. Mencken, in response to a request for advice on how to become a magazine editor:

25 January, 1936
San Fransisco, California

Dear Saroyan,

I note what you say about your aspiration to edit a magazine. I am sending you by this mail a six-chambered revolver. Load it and fire every one into your head. You will thank me after you get to hell and learn from other editors there how dreadful their job was on earth.

(Signed, 'H.L. Mencken')

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You have to remember that Slitheen is a surname…

November 21st, 2011

Apparently, Martin Belam found the experience of editing a compilation of the Guardian's articles about NuWho a tad unnerving:

I'm terrified of errors. Not formatting errors – because it seems to me the process of publishing ebooks has been carefully calibrated to maximise the chance of errors creeping in. They are just a given.

No, I'm terrified of Doctor Who errors.

[Story about the process of deciding how many actors have portrayed The Master on-screen. It turns out that the answer is six. Or possibly seven.]

You see how tricky it is? Neither number is satisfactory. For a bunch of people ready to suspend disbelief to the point that a 900 year old Time Lord can travel anywhere in time and space in a battered old police box, Whovians can be incredibly pedantic about the show. Me included.

It's an interesting look at the challenges of filleting more than half a decade's coverage of the show to produce an ebook of around half that length whilst ironing out odd little stylistic inconsistencies.

I've bought a copy. No doubt I'll have read a significant portion of the material when it was first published, but I'm willing to spend £3.45 to enjoy it again and catch up on what I missed. Also, if this project is a success Martin Belam would like to do a similar compilation of the Guardian's coverage of ClassicWho: I'd very much like to read that.

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Moral panics in perspective

August 17th, 2011

Talking of the lessons of history, The Economist's Bagehot columnist provides a much-needed sense of perspective, largely drawn from a 1982 book called Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears by Geoffrey Pearson of Bradford University:

"Hooligan" compares the 1958 and 1978 Conservative Party annual conferences. In 1978, buffetted by calls from the floor for a return to the birch and "Saturday night floggings" for football hooligans, it notes, the future home secretary William Whitelaw pledged a new regime of short-sharp-shock Detention Centres modelled on army discipline.

And in 1958? The agenda included a debate on a "disturbing increase in criminal offences", and speakers asserting that "our wives and mothers, if they are left alone in the house at night, are frightened to open their doors", and that "over the past 25 years we in this country, through misguided sentiment, have cast aside the word "discipline", and now we are suffering from it". Delegates fumed over the "leniency" of modern courts and the way that young people were "no longer frightened of the police". Over calls from the floor for a return to flogging, the home secretary R A Butler pledged a programme of building short-sharp-shock Detention Centres, wherein "there should be a maximum of hard work and a minimum of amusement."

Still, no African-American rap music to corrupt the young, at least. Alas, "Hooligan" notes, the country was in the grip of a moral panic about rock and roll. In a 1956 front page editorial, headlined "Rock 'n Roll Babies" the Daily Mail declared:

It is deplorable. It is tribal. And it is from America. It follows rag-time, blues, dixie, jazz, hot cha-cha and the boogie-woogie, which surely originated in the jungle. We sometimes wonder whether this is the negro's revenge.

[Via James Nicoll]

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