Robert Hampton

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July 2010

1st July 2010

“Not a very promising beginning.” “It might get better.”
Posted by at 10.45pm | Books | No responses

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is an annual award for the worst first sentence of a novel. This year’s winner, Molly Ringle, deserves a special mention:-

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss–a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.

(via Andrew Sullivan‘s blog)

4th July 2010

The Times, they are a-chargin’

Rupert Murdoch’s nefarious plans have come to fruition and The Times web site is now behind a paywall. As of July 2nd, anyone wanting to click past the newspaper’s (admittedly quite nice-looking) front page will now need to flash their credit card in News International’s direction.

Will this drive away punters? Almost certainly, and the Guardian wasted no time publishing a (slightly smug) “welcome” message to disaffected Times readers.

I’m guessing from the tone of that piece that the Guardian are sticking with the “free” model for the foreseeable future, but how long can that situation continue? Most newspapers are losing money and online advertising does not bring in enough revenue to compensate. New revenue sources will have to be found somewhere. Good journalism is not cheap, and it does seem a bit commercially suicidal of newspapers to give away their content for free.

On the other hand, hiding articles behind a paywall means that same quality product is at risk of being ignored by the wider internet. There will be no Google News alerts pointing to Times articles; bloggers will no longer have the option of linking to a Times article to back up their views; on Twitter, there will be few short URLs going to The Times. Overall, there will be a big drop in traffic: will there be enough people paying money to the Times to justify taking their web site out of the global conversation?

In fact, with so many other free news sources online (for now, at least) will anyone be prepared to pay? The Financial Times has charged for some time, but that’s a specialist publication for a niche market, offering in-depth coverage not provided elsewhere. The Times, on the other hand, is a mainstream newspaper — who will pay to access the Times when the same news can be found on the BBC, Telegraph, Guardian, New York Times and a thousand other sources on Google News? Is Jeremy Clarkson’s column a sufficient draw to tempt people to pay £1?

In summary, I’m sceptical. But if it stops overseas bloggers referring to “The Times of London” in their links (that’s NOT what the paper is called!) I’ll be happy.

5th July 2010

Scrum down
Posted by at 1.14pm | In the News | No responses

Someone has just noticed that rugby can be a bit dangerous:

Rugby scrums should be banned in schools to protect children involved in a sport which is “not safe enough” for them, an expert has warned.

I have a horrible feeling that this story — about one person suggesting that one single aspect of the sport is dropped — is going to mutate, via a million conversations in pubs, taxis and radio phone-ins, into “rugby banned at all schools”. Eventually it will be added to the list of anecdotes used by Lord Young of Graffham to illustrate “elf ‘n’ safety gone mad”.

8th July 2010

Judgment Gay
Posted by at 7.56pm | In the News | No responses

I am proud that this country offers a safe haven to those fleeing persecution, which is why the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that gay asylum seekers must be allowed refuge in Britain pleased me so much.

A whole raft of tabloid stupidness has been unleashed, notably this morning’s Daily Express front page. It gets even weirder if you read the original Supreme Court judgment and realise that the reference to “Kylie concerts and multi-coloured cocktails” was not the product of a slightly mad Express sub-editor, but actually came from one of the Judges, Lord Rodger:

To illustrate the point with trivial stereotypical examples from British society: just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls with their mates, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates.

I think Gareth Thomas may have something to say about rugby being an exclusively heterosexual activity.

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12th July 2010

Orange you glad it’s only once a year?
Posted by at 10.17pm | Liverpool | No responses

Today was Orange Lodge day or something and the streets of Liverpool were filled with marchers, parading through the streets and holding up rush-hour traffic.

I remember, years ago, being taken along to the parades by my Dad. 8-year-old Robert was fascinated by the costumes and music and enjoyed it. Then, as I got a bit older, I did a bit of research, realised what these parades were actually about and I didn’t like what I discovered one bit.

The whole event makes me decidedly uncomfortable. I’m not talking specifically about the drunken rabble, returning from Southport, that held up my train home at Moorfields this evening by starting a small riot on the platform — although they are, obviously, awful. But in a supposedly modern, forward-looking, 21st-century city, is this sort of sectarian throwback really something to be proud of?

It appears, ultimately, to boil down to: “MY regressive religious faith is slightly better than YOUR, slightly different but equally regressive religious faith.” And if people still feel the need to declare their perceived superiority over others, in this day and age, well… I’m just happier than ever to be an atheist. 🙂

15th July 2010

Laugh and the world (or at least, a studio audience) laughs with you
Posted by at 11.38pm | Television | No responses

I like sitcoms with live studio audiences. There, I said it.

In some quarters, this admission will land me with Cliff Richard fans and bus-spotters in the credibility stakes. However, I think that those who automatically dismiss studio sitcoms as a relic from the past are missing out on a treat, and I shall try to explain why.

The mainstay of television comedy, from the fuzzy black and white era right up to the late 90s, was the studio sitcom. Shows such as Hancock’s Half Hour, Dad’s Army, Fawlty Towers, The Young Ones, One Foot in the Grave and Father Ted are fondly remembered by successive generations.

The audience sitcom has gone rather out of fashion in the 21st century, however, with the arrival of the “realistic” comedy in the shape of shows like The Royle Family and (of course) The Office, with a rather more subtle style of humour than the larger-than-life characters and farcical situations favoured by most traditional sitcoms.

In Extras a key plot point was the crap sitcom When The Whistle Blows, a show whose success seems to entirely revolve around the lead character’s spouting of a lame catchphrase week in, week out. By the way, is it a coincidence that this show-within-a-show seems quite similar to Dinnerladies?

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16th July 2010

Comic Turn
Posted by at 8.37pm | Politics | No responses

The most depressing comic book ever? This is an educational tome drawn up by the US Military to explain the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gay soldiers.

Don't Ask Don't Tell Comic

It’s worth reading the whole thing: 32 pages of crisp, clear images to explain how the American armed forces will discharge soldiers, regardless of their service record, for a completely unfair reason.

18th July 2010

Liverpool on the Waterfront
Posted by at 11.04am | Liverpool | 1 response

This weekend Liverpool is hosting a variety of events based around the Albert Dock / Pier Head area, in Liverpool on the Waterfront. I spent a few hours there with my friend Andrew on Saturday afternoon. Despite the variable weather, we had a really good time. Liverpool is getting really good at these showpiece events, and it was good to see so many visitors in the city.

I also had the chance to give my new digital camera a workout and some of the best pictures are reproduced below for your viewing pleasure.

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