Saturday, 23 May 2009

MPs’ “gravy train”

Being a bit of a cynic, I wasn’t really surprised by the recent revelations about MPs’ expenses. I felt a vague sense of sympathy for Speaker Michael Martin when he was “grilled” in the House of Commons the other day, but he really did have to go: it must have been as obvious to him as to others that he had completely failed in his job. The House of Commons should feel collective guilt for their appalling attempt to exempt themselves from the Freedom of Information Act but, in supporting this, the Speaker was going against the principles of democracy and, for this alone, deserved to be ousted.

Some MPs seem to feel it’s their birthright to take money from the public purse. I was amazed by the tone of some of the statements from Tory MP Anthony Steen, boasting about his large house and then asking “What right does the public have to interfere with my private life” – completely failing to acknowledge that it was his (and others’) misuse of public money, and their subsequent attempts to hide this, that caused the whole row.

I’m not a Tory supporter and dread the result of a General Election this year, but I definitely have some sympathy with John Wick, the man who passed on the details of MPs’ expenses to the Daily Telegraph, when he says that the official version due for publication in July had lots of details censored, and that the public has a right to know about MPs' affairs given how much information the government is collecting about ordinary citizens.

BBC's slipping standards

Comment sent to BBC via their web site this evening:

This morning on BREAKFAST there were at least two (I think three) clips in the feature on Morrissey where 4:3 footage was "stretched" to 16:9. I am not a follower of Morrissey, but this picture distortion was immediately obvious to me. For a professional broadcaster, this is simply shoddy. I'm sure your editors and engineers have heard of zooming and cropping - or, of course, they could have used pillarboxing with vertical mattes.

The analogy that always comes to my mind is wedding photographs - no-one would consider accepting these if the bride and groom were shown 33% wider than in life, so why does the BBC (that we expect to uphold broadcast standards) do this?

This isn't the first time I've seen this on the BBC. I get slightly irritated when I see spelling mistakes in BBC captions too (which seems to get more frequent), but they've probably got more of an excuse for that. The people who put out TV "magazine" programmes are trained in broadcast techniques - I'm not, and I spotted the distortion immediately. That must mean they can also see that it's not right, but just don't care.

I know lots of people actually have their wide screen TVs set to make all 4:3 material look "fat" but surely we can expect higher standards from the BBC than from your average, uncritical viewer?

Saturday, 2 May 2009


I've wondered what the bird is that's been waking me (in a rather soothing way) at 5am for the past few weeks. Every few seconds the musical notes go and it sings "Wicka - wicka - wicka", like a car alarm. I've read that song thrushes are very keen mimics of repetitive sounds and, if you hear a song that uses repetition, it will be a thrush. Could it be one of the same family that nested in our garden (in the fork of our drainpipe) a few years ago?

I'm more inclined to think that it's one of the blackbirds that are ubiquitous in our area. I know they're great mimics as well, and I've spotted one recently on top of one of the tall blocks of flats dotted around our housing estate.