Friday, March 20, 2015

Embed and breakfast man: Garbage

Vow by Garbage. Released twenty years ago this very morning.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Toyota: committed to crowd-sourcing bands and safety. Nowadays.

Earlier today, this tweet appeared:

God, it sounds horrible, doesn't it? It's not just that it's a terrible idea, it doesn't even seem like an especially original idea, being more or less a rehash of 2009's Josh's Band campaign.

So I made a snurkling noise:

I don't mind Toyota, to be honest. Their hybrids are alright, as cars go. But I just wished they'd stick to making cars rather than crowd-sourcing bands.

And I thought that would be it. Except... Toyota weren't having that.

Really, Toyota? You recall voluntarily, out of concern for safety, do you?


Just last year, you were pulling back six and a half million cars around the world after some of them caught fire. Presumably in Toyota's world, selling cars to people to see if they catch fire must constitute rigorous testing.

More to the point, a year ago to the very day, Toyota was making a massive USD1.2bn payment to avoid legal action following its decision to not recall cars where the accelerator could stick, even after ABC News had told it there was a serious problem:
ABC News published dozens of reports in the following months as Toyota said it investigated and announced massive recalls to address the accelerators being stuck under floor mats – repeatedly assuring drivers that the problem had been taken care of. But today Toyota admitted that the recalls did not cover all the cars they knew were in danger and said that they also concealed another cause of sudden acceleration they had found during their investigations – “sticky” pedals, which refers to the accelerator getting stuck partially depressed.

In December 2009, the court records showed the company responded to “media accusations that it was continuing to hide defects in its vehicles” by publishing a statement on Toyota’s website saying the company “has absolutely not minimized public awareness of any defect or issue with respect to its vehicles [and] [a]ny suggestion to the contrary is wrong and borders on irresponsibility.”

Toyota only announced the issue with the “sticky” pedals, along with another massive recall, just minutes before an ABC News report on “World News” in January 2010 told the story of one driver whose Toyota Avalon took off suddenly on the highway.
In fact, Toyota's "rigorous testing" somehow hadn't caught a situation where people could be killed - in fact, one man even spent three years in prison after a Toyota Camry he was driving spun out of control and killed three people.

In short, Toyota, if you want to burnish your image by crowd sourcing a band, feel free. But let's not assume that everyone has forgotten that time you knew your cars were dangerous and you lied about it, eh?

BBC Trust agrees to kill the distinctiveness of Radio 1

Radio 1. What makes it difference from commercial radio, and - come to that - from streaming stuff over Spotify?

It'd be the live music and the sessions. There's something you can point at and say, there's something that proves the value in having a station like that, funded by licence fee.

The BBC Trust agree.

Except, they don't agree enough to protect that part of the service:

BBC Radio 1 is to make dramatic cuts to its live music output, with the number of sessions by pop and rock bands dropping from 250 to 160 per year.

The station will also reduce the number of live events it covers from 25 to 10.

The BBC Trust has agreed to the changes, despite audience research showing "that live music is seen as a key strength of Radio 1".
"Yes, you're very good at what you do. Play some more records instead, eh, that's cheaper."

The BBC Trust is chaired, you'll recall, by Rona Fairhead, who seems to be bringing the same sure touch she shows at her other job at HSBC to the work she's doing at the BBC.

What else is in the Trust findings? Well...

Radio 1 and 1Xtra's roles supporting musicians and djs with career advice is now mainly going to be picked up BBC Introducing - a change which reflects what's been happening anyway;

Radio 1 and 1Xtra will share more documentaries; 1Xtra's requirement for 20% speech programming has been dropped as a result (although the worry is that 'repeating Radio 1 documentaries' isn't the same sort of thing as creating the crafted speech programmes it has been doing.);

1Xtra can now do dj mixes instead of club nights;

Radio 2 will no longer have to do 'readings' as part of its remit, on the grounds that who knew Radio 2 had to do readings?, but it still "should" do readings. That's clear, yeah?

The need for "regular" comedy programmes on Radio 2 has been watered down to just "comedy programmes";

6Music comes off largely untouched, although the previous target of "15% of concerts and session from archives" is turned into a more easy to track "Broadcast at least 6,500 concert tracks or sessions from the BBC’s music archive each year, with at least 1,150 in daytime". You might wonder why, if the Trust wants to see 6Music using the BBC Archive so widely, it's just signed off on proposals to limit the size at which that archive grows in the same sodding document;

Radio 3 has to do more jazz;

and less drama;

and Asian Network has to provide at least 24 hours of news and current affairs every week. Not clear if this includes sticking Five Live on overnight.

The worst thing in these new rules is that Radio 1 is going to mostly cutback the sessions and live music out of the mainstream; it's a double blow to distinctiveness.

Venuewatch: The Roadhouse

Manchester Roadhouse, one of those venues which is part toilet, part legend, is closing at the end of May.

It seems that the competition for the bands-on-the-cusp market has got too intense, and the Roadhouse is a casualty of the overcrowded market.

Britney Spears: Independent seems a little lost in the modern world

The Independent is very excited indeed by Britney Spears:

To many women, being called a "bitch", particularly by a man, is derogatory.

And there are equally as many reasons for why the term is perceived to be offensive as there are women offended by it.
Not so for Britney Spears, a pop singer who’s reiterated the word so often over the course of her career, it’s bizarrely formed part of her catchphrase ("It's Britney, bitch).

So, in a strange twist of neo-feminist fate, she’s decided to fully reclaim it with a definition of her own.

“Being a bitch means… I stand up for myself and my beliefs,” she wrote in a post on Instagram. “I stand up for those I love, I speak my mind, think my own thoughts or do things my way.
She wrote this, did she, Jenn Selby of The Independent?

Do you understand how memes work, exactly?

Sure, Britney posted the "Bitchology poem" to her Instagram account. And, yes, you might see that an embracing its viewpoint.

But it's clearly just a jpeg, and about one tenth of second with Google Image search confirms this is a "poem" which has been doing the rounds of the internet since before Grumpy Cat was a kitten.

You wonder if when Jenn sees those "funny" ecards on Facebook that she assumes the person who is posting them wrote the things: "Hey, I never knew my great aunt Margaret was such an amusing and inspirational thinker on questions of motherhood and religion. And how did she come up with that test to see if you can read all those words jumbled up? She's an undiscovered genius."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Freeobit: Andy Fraser

Andy Fraser, bassist with Free, has died.

There's an official statement:

Andrew McLan Fraser passed away on Monday at his home in California. He leaves behind his daughters Hannah and Jasmine Fraser, and their mother Ri, his sister Gail, brothers Gavin and Alex, and many friends and associates in the industry.

“A survivor of both cancer and AIDS, Andy was a strong social activist and defender of individual human rights.
Fraser was diagnosed HIV+ in the 1980s; his illness with Sarcoma followed soon after.

On his personal website, Fraser wrote frankly about his struggle with his sexuality. Conflicted between feelings and image, he went as far as planning a suicide - talking with a reporter who had helped her terminally ill mother die; arranging how he'd do it; putting his affairs in order. Amazingly, it was the detailed planning of his death that helped him past it:
[I planned] until, in my mind, the event had already happened, and I thought 'what the bloody hell did that solve?' Nothing. So finally, I had to come around to acceptance.
Fraser didn't find coming out easy; being wracked with pain didn't help, either. He says he had to find new reasons not to kill himself every day for three years. But he got through it, finally finding a place where, in his words, he could say:
fuck you, everybody; I'm not hiding any more

A lot of his obituaries will record his victories over cancer and AIDS. His survival as a gay man in an era when that brought a mountain of struggles, and over suicidal depression, should also be celebrated.

Fraser was 62. He co-wrote a song that actually lives up to the accolade iconic:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Glastonbury 2015: Kanye believe it?

There's been a predictable squeal of disrupted lives following the announcement that Kanye West is going to headline Glastonbury on Saturday night:

A petition has also been launched to prevent West from performing at the festival.

The petition [is] titled 'Cancel Kanye West's headline slot and get a rock band'
There's no way, just for clarity, that "rock band" is being used as shorthand for "a group of white men". That's not the intention at all. No. Not at all.

Thing is, there are good reasons for asking if Kanye is right for Glastonbury - but the objections are exactly the same as the objections to U2 headlining Glastonbury. An act well past their best before date being promoted beyond their due. And even those objections... well, you have to remember that when people say things like this...:
We spend hundreds of pounds to attend glasto, and by doing so, expect a certain level of entertainment.
... part of the reason you're paying so much money is because it's a massive festival, and there's about sixty thousand other stages to go and watch. Seriously, if you're paying that much money to go to a music festival and can't find something headlining one of the stages to enjoy, why are you paying hundreds of pounds to go to a music festival in the first place?

(With U2, there was a broader question about whether a festival that still had some pretence at being counterculturally aware ought to be booking acts who shuffle their cash off to lower tax regimes, which is a fair question. Kanye isn't a rock band isn't even a question.)

You paid your taxes. Do you want a prize? Oh, okay then.

YoonA, K-Pop star, has been given a special prize from her government:

And now . . . she is the recipient of a presidential award from the South Korean government for being a dutiful and honest taxpayer who has made a significant financial contribution to her country. As part of the award she will be an honorary ambassador of Korea’s National Tax Service, helping to promote her fellow citizens’ duty to pay taxes.
In South Korea, you're celebrated for paying your share of tax. In the UK, you get an OBE if you don't.

Why is the mainstream media not reporting this more widely?

Listen you guys, this is massive.

Shane Lynch went shopping in Redhill.

I know - where was Huw Edwards? Where was Jon "so-called" Snow? Where was Paxman Dimbleby?


Thank god the Surrey Mirror didn't flinch from reporting THE TRUTH. At some length:

BOYZONE pop band singer Shane Lynch popped into Redhill for some shopping on Monday afternoon - and happily posed for photos with a delighted fan.
Actually, that's the entire story. But... it doesn't stop the Surrey Mirror dragging it out for another fifteen paragraphs, building the drama:
He walked east along the High Steet and as he prepared to cross the road at the traffic lights outside the Tower public house at 2.30pm, a fan appeared from nowhere and plucked up the courage to ask if he was from the top "boy" band Boyzone.
I really hope the fan actually made the air quote symbols when she asked the question.

The story is strung out because the fan's photo failed:
She asked if she could take his photograph and Mr Lynch, totally unfazed, agreed to the request.

At first, the fan had to secure the help of a passer-by to take the picture. But when he clicked her mobile camera, the picture appeared blurred.
Luckily, the Mirror's Mark Davison, community editor, was nearby, and he stepped in to take a non-blurry photo. And write a long piece.

Oddly, the fan is referred to throughout as "the young lady". Perhaps so excited by the presence of "boy" "band" "man", the paper forgot to ask her name.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pop stars doing lovely things: Mike Rosenberg

Mike Rosenberg, who is Passenger, was contacted by a fan's family. The fan, Rachael McGilvray, has got inoperable cancer, and is hoping to get married.

Rosenberg chipped in with a thousand quid to help with the costs of the ceremony.

Pop stars: Not always total asshats.

Amfar makes a curious choice

Amfar - the AIDS/HIV charity co-founded by Elizabeth Taylor - held a fundraiser in Hong Kong on Saturday.

Which is fine. Going where the money is. That makes sense.

But hang on... what was the entertainment?

HONG KONG – Robin Thicke serenaded a star-studded audience at the amfAR gala in Hong Kong on Saturday night with “Blurred Lines,” just four days after a jury in Los Angeles ordered the singer and Pharrell Williams to pay about $7.4 million to the family of Marvin Gaye, concluding that the pair’s 2013 hit song copied parts of Mr. Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.”
Really, Amfar? You're raising money to fight against the spread of HIV by getting someone to sing a song about how it's so tricky not raping people? Do we not worry about judgement once we're out and about?