Tag Archives: stuff in the news

Twitter: My part in Ian Hislop’s only tweet

As a long time fan of topical TV comedy quiz Have I Got News For You, I was tickled to see in this week’s extended edition an item about Twitter. In one of the bits not broadcast in the initial 30-minute show last Friday night, the delightful Kirsty Young pulled the “one-armed bandit of news” to reveal a photo of Stephen Fry checking his phone. The news item it referred to, as the fabulous Ross Noble correctly identified, was Fry’s recent tete-a-twit with one of his followers who had called his tweets “boring”, resulting in the bipolar Fry threatening to quit Twitter altogether. Fry of course did no such thing and the two were back on tweeting terms the next day. (How this came to be national news incidentally baffles me, but that’s by-the-by.)

At the end of the item, Young contrived a link to another celebrity tweet, this one supposedly by HIGNFY stalwart Ian Hislop saying he “got caught shoplifting in French Connection”. The joke is, it’s not by *the* Ian Hislop but someone passing himself off as him. Some of this guy’s tweets are quite funny (the one in question among them) but some of them are clearly not the work of the editor of Private Eye.

I first noticed the fake Hislop’s Twitter feed back in May of this year and, fairly alarmed at the fact that the faker had nearly 9,000 followers, not all of whom would realise the feed was a fraud, decided to drop Hislop a line at the magazine to bring it to his attention. I had a nice email back from him asking how he could “snap up” the username “realianhislop” which I’d suggested he do to ensure he got himself an official Twitter presence. I wrote back explaining how to do it, and on 1st June the Real Ian Hislop signed up and tweeted: “I am the real Ian Hislop. Anyone else claiming to be me twittering is, unsurprisingly, a fake. This should be my only tweet. Thankyou.”

This tweet was shown in all its 140-character glory on the other night’s HIGNFY, raising a modest titter. Hislop commented, “I was told that if I did it, the person pretending to be me, who has millions of followers – more even than the Dalai Lama – would go away. But he didn’t.” I didn’t tell Hislop this would happen, but I do note that the faker hasn’t tweeted since the end of May, so something seems to have happened (whether he was explicitly told to cease and desist, I don’t know). The irony though is that in the past five months, the fake Hislop has managed to *increase* his followers to over 15,000! This compares with the real Hislop’s more sedate 200 follower count (albeit up from 177 when I first checked on Monday) – not that it means much anyway because he’s not tweeting, even though that’s the whole joke.

I’d like to think this incident demonstrates that even if you’re the real McCoy, nobody will follow you on Twitter if you don’t tweet, as that’s the point of the exercise. You don’t even need to tweet very often – it’s the content that counts, as the excellent Justin Halpern of @shitmydadsays fame goes to show, having amassed over 750,000 followers in a few months with just a few dozen brilliant tweets. (On that note there was a lovely little news item on the BBC site yesterday reporting that Halpern has landed a TV show on the back of his feed, the coy Auntie Beeb managing not to mention its name. I bet Halpern is wishing he’d called it “stuffmydadsays” instead now.)

Anyway I am happy to have encouraged Ian Hislop (the real one) to use Twitter, even if he has only tweeted the once, and even happier that HIGNFY used it on the show. (I should own up that I might have *slightly* emailed Hat Trick Productions back in the summer to bring the whole thing to their attention, but I shouldn’t claim full responsibility as I’m sure they would’ve been aware of it anyway.) You can see the whole hilarious exchange (Noble riffs on his own Twitter experience brilliantly) on the video below between 6:00 and 9:17 (sorry, I’d love to have the facilities to edit the vid to be able to post just the relevant 3-minute section, but I don’t, so if anyone’s offering please let me know, as the item is well deserving of isolation for the Twitter archives!)


Posted via email from Thoughtcat’s Posterous

Cooper “gutted” at being passed over for “Wave”

One of the UK’s most influential technology people this afternoon described himself as “gutted” after not receiving an invitation from Google to participate in the internet firm’s exclusive new Wave product beta.

“I signed up to take part in the beta months ago,” complained Richard Cooper. “I didn’t hear anything after that, and then this morning I read on the BBC website that Google were sending out invitations from 4pm UK time.

“It’s now nearly five o’clock and I’ve heard nothing. I’m gutted.”

The web content manager went on: “The Daily Telegraph listed me this week as Britain’s 23rd most influential technology person. You would have thought that if anyone was going to be invited, it would be me.”

A spokesperson for Google commented, “We would love to have invited Richard but unfortunately we only had 22 invitations and they all went out to the first 22 most influential people in UK technology. Richard was unfortunately just not influential enough on this occasion.

“Nonetheless, each of those invitations allows the user to invite five friends, so hopefully one of those recipients will be kind enough to ask Richard to take part in our beta trial.”

Richard Cooper is 38.

Why I opposed Leonard Cohen’s Israel show today

I guess it seems churlish to post this now the show has happened and some 55,000 people have gone home happy, and some good may have been done. But a principle’s a principle and I still think today’s Tel Aviv concert by Leonard Cohen was wrong.

This is how it started. Some months ago I had an email from an old friend expressing her dismay that Cohen, of whom we are both longtime fans, was to play a show in Israel as part of his enormously successful world tour. I hadn’t really given much thought to cultural boycotts before but I agreed that it did seem questionable judgment on Cohen’s behalf to play a show in a country that only months before had launched a devastating attack on the West Bank, causing the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

My friend wrote a letter to Cohen, emailing it to his manager Robert Kory, and set up an online petition calling for Cohen to reconsider his decision or at least offer to play a show on the West Bank in addition to the Israel concert, or to donate the proceeds to a charitable organisation working for peace on both sides. A second friend became involved and the three of us became the first signatories to the petition. We called ourselves the Leonard Cohen Boycott Israel Coalition (and then the Campaign), I set up a blog to host our letter and various links, and also a Twitter feed and a Facebook group. We put something of a disclaimer on the blog saying “We take no pleasure is asking Leonard and his management to deprive Israeli fans of their long awaited moment to see him live, but feel that with circumstances as they are in the Palestinian territories and Gaza in particular, the priority must be to appeal to them to refrain from giving credibility to the Israeli state by playing there.”

This didn’t seem unreasonable to me, even though it felt fundamentally weird to be opposing anything Leonard Cohen was doing. My love for the man and his work is profound; I first discovered him in the late 1980s during a pretty bad period in my life; someone lent me his Greatest Hits and his first novel The Favourite Game, and they turned me around. I wouldn’t necessarily be so grandiose as to say they saved my life but they did make me a different person. Nonetheless, we all make mistakes, and I felt Leonard – especially being Jewish – could have made more of an impact on the situation in Israel by refusing to play there given its politicians’ horrendous foreign policy.

To be honest though I was pretty surprised at what happened next. My first friend had thought the petition might receive one or two thousand signatures; although we got a reassuring 30 in the first few days, to date the total still stands at less than 100. I circulated the details to selected friends on Facebook and by email, and although I would describe all my friends as liberal, only two of them actually signed the petition. One friend, who also happened to be Jewish, rang me up within hours of receiving the email to express his own dismay at the idea of such a boycott, saying that whatever you think of Israeli foreign policy, it was impossible to separate Israel from Jewishness, and thus our campaign seemed anti-semitic. He went on to quote an article in that day’s Times by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks repeating this weary and depressing argument.

I have to say I was disappointed by the silence and staggered by the response of my Jewish friend; such thoughts couldn’t have been further from my mind or those of my campaign colleagues. When the campaign was later attacked by commenters on the blog for targetting Cohen, rather than the more “obvious” (and also, coincidentally, gentile) artists who have also played Israel recently such as Madonna or Depeche Mode, I began to realise how much hypocrisy and bullshit there is in all of this – and also how much fear. The possibility of being called an anti-semite is too much of a risk for most people to bear, and this is precisely why Israel gets away with flouting international law and bombing the crap out of Arab schoolchildren.

While further friends maintained an awkward silence, someone else also declined to sign the petition, saying, “I think, morally, at least, [Cohen] is more than entitled to [play the show]; his own humanity, I think, speaks more than eloquently about any predispositions it encounters along the way… and if people still don’t get it, then LC not playing won’t make a scrap of difference; positively, therefore, he may just channel a thought or two in the right direction.” I admit I agreed with that. But I also hoped Leonard would come to his senses. I didn’t think he would, but I hoped so.

I stuck with it, and as the months progressed other groups from around the world joined in the opposition (even though probably hardly any had heard of our campaign). The Facebook group rose steadily despite a few stupid comments from both extremes (one person who joined had a swastika as his profile picture) but topped out at around 130 members. (A Swedish version which predated mine scored several hundred though.) The Israel show appeared on Cohen’s official tour schedule, then inexplicably dropped off it; nobody was really sure whether the pressure groups had won or not. We didn’t get a reply from Cohen’s manager, but didn’t really expect one, especially as he’s on record in various places criticising the boycotters. Then it was announced that the show would go on and Cohen would also be playing a small gig in Ramallah after the Tel Aviv show; this seemed positive, but the Palestinians arguably shot themselves in the foot by withdrawing their support for the gig as long as Cohen insisted on also playing Tel Aviv. Various charities were mooted to receive donations from proceeds of the show, and this was denied. Amnesty International was reported as supporting the show, and it then pulled out, saying it never took a side in boycotts. The tickets for Ramat Gan stadium went on sale and sold out within minutes; protesters demonstrated in New York and Montreal. Academics wrote letters and Alexei Sayle recorded an embarrassing video of himself singing a comedy song poking fun at his own Jewish heritage with parody lyrics.

So anyway, here we are today and the show has passed without incident. Leonard greeted the audience in Hebrew, sang his great songs (including Famous Blue Raincot, apparently – grr, wish I’d been there), people Twittered about it, and The Parents Circle is set to receive a large donation. So maybe some good has come of it. But as my friend whose idea the whole LCBI campaign was said today in her post, “there can be no real and lasting peace for everyone and justice for the Palestinians until all the walls, real and metaphorical, are torn down and the Palestinians can be assured of their place alongside the Israelis with all their lands restored to them. Therefore a continuing international boycott of Israel is unfortunately necessary.”

The only thing left for me to say is that I regret not blogging earlier about this. I hope nobody has gone away thinking I’m a hypocrite or disingenuous for not owning up to my involvement from the start. It’s true that I and my two friends didn’t exactly splash our names across the LCBI blog, although we did use our real names when we signed the petition and all my Facebook friends knew I supported the cause.

I’m not bitter, though; a principle’s a principle and I think this was a damn good one.

In defence of bloggers; reality politics

Following a moan by a New York Times journalist about the exposure Google gives blogs in its page rankings, John Naughton writes a defence of bloggers in the Observer, pointing out that the contempt held for blogs and their authors by experienced journalists is misplaced. “Journalism has always been, as Northcliffe observed, ‘the art of explaining to others that which one does not oneself understand’,” explains Naughton. Let’s hear it for Northcliffe! Wasn’t he the chap in Wuthering Heights?


Elsewhere in the Observer, it is reported that the producer of Big Borether, Peter Bazalgette, modestly asserts that the way to get more people interested in politics is for Westminster to adapt to the voting methods used in his “reality TV” (an oxymoron if ever there was one) programme. I somehow have my doubts that MPs in the House of Commons will agree to let themselves be nominated for eviction by each other on a weekly basis and then have their political future determined by text message. And who could be bothered to sit through 659 sets of nominations every week? In any case, Bazalgette is missing the point completely to infer that politics can only be made more relevant and interesting to “the masses” with the use of such trendy techniques. What people would actually respond to are some politicians who capture their imaginations, and above all, who they can trust.

Prince William says Picasso is good, so it must be true (and other stuff)

Week 94: the housemates are on day 62 of their pedalo task. They’ve only three hours to go and then they’ll be given their next task – painting the house. That’s right – tune into Big Brother tomorrow night and watch paint dry…

Big Brother. The very words strike fear into the soul: someone watching you 24 hours a day, telling you what to do, what to think, what to believe. If it’s not George W. Bush and Tony Blair, it’s Enema Productions or whatever they’re called. Oh, that’s a nice kitchen. Mm, she’s pretty. God, he’s boring. In fact, it’s all boring. Why am I watching this crap? Why don’t these people just GET A LIFE???

* * *

Jilly Cooper (no relation) and Joanna Trollope have descended on the Guardian Hay Festival to defend the honour of their “bonkbusters” and “Aga sagas”. Cooper claims: “There are two categories of writers. Jeffrey Archer and me who long and long for a kind word in the Guardian and the others who get all the kind words and long to be able to do what Jeffrey and I do.” One for Private Eye’s Modesty Corner, I should think. What can she possibly care what the Guardian says about her books when Telegraph and Mail readers lap them up wholesale? She then goes on to say, “My new book has got paedophilia, September 11 and lots of black people in it. I’m moving on, we’ve got to progress.” If that isn’t the most desperate, sad cry for literary credibility I don’t know what is.

Trollope meanwhile pours scorn on the “grim lit” popular with critics “that makes you want to slash your wrists”. Sounds a bit like the old argument about Leonard Cohen’s records being “music to slash your wrists to” – always levelled by people who’d never listened to them, of course. And as LC himself once said, “My feeling about music I don’t like is that I keep my mouth shut about it.” A lesson for us all, maybe, Joanna?

* * *

Thoughtcat’s spy in West Drayton highlights a very good article on ZNet today by Ian Hislop’s favourite “left-wing comedian” and scourge of the Iraq war, Mark Steele, entitled Truth, Lies and Weapons of Mass Destruction.

* * *

And finally today, in an exclusive to all newspapers, Prince William, a.k.a. Ordinary Geezer Bill Windser, talks about life as a student at the University of St Andrews, where he’s reading history of art. Commenting on the subject, he describes his father’s watercolours as “brilliant” and Picasso as “revolutionary”. “His blue period,” he ruminates: “I do like that.”

Setting the record straight on masked palm civets

The Guardian reports that the masked palm civet may be responsible for the Sars virus. When I first read this I wasn’t sure whether a masked palm civet was a tree, a kind of party or a herb used in south-east asian cooking. This of course does nothing for my feline credentials whatsoever, but now we know that it is, in fact, a cat, or a “small cat-like mammal” as the article puts it. It seems to me civets have had a bad press – it wasn’t they who were responsible for spreading the virus after all, but people who killed them and ate them – often illegally.

Anyway, I had a surprisingly difficult time finding much information about civets on the internet. The picture I found was deceptive, making me think someone had mistaken the poor creature for a badger. (But then, perhaps badgers are small cat-like mammals too?) The only decent snippet of information I found came from Tiscali’s reference site sourced from the Hutchinson Encyclopaedia. Even the estimable World Wildlife Fund had nothing on the story. However, I emailed them about the issue and received this response:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us for our view on recent claims that eating the masked palm civet could have caused the outbreak of SARS in China.

We do not believe enough scientific research has been carried out to support this claim and therefore we cannot comment on this issue.

You may be interested to know that although national laws may vary, international trade in the masked palm civet is strictly regulated.

International trade may be authorized by the granting an export permit or re-export certificate; no import permit is necessary. Permits or certificates should only be granted if the relevant authorities are satisfied that certain conditions are met, above all that trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.

Stuff in the news

Painful as it is to see anyone in agony, as he fractures his scaphoid it’s good to see “ace haircut with quite a good footballer attached” David Beckham once again doing service to linguistics by bringing another unusual word into popular usage, as he did last time with the Great Metatarsal Affair. Anthony Burgess, eat your heart out!

* * *

Thoughtcat’s (wo)Man in West Drayton strikes again with an interesting report from the BBC that scientists in the US have found “proof” that Buddhist meditation helps you feel more serene. It’s a nice story, but surely Buddhists have known that for some time. Who says science is slow on the uptake?

* * *

I have finally finished the first entry for thoughtcat’s nine lives page, an occasional series of random memoirs from a less-than-auspicious CV, starting with a job I had in a burger bar with an interestingly-decorated table. Hope you enjoy it…

Stuff in the news

Looks like we’re going to be in for a Dylan moviefest in the coming months. First it was Todd Haynes’s Bob Dylan biopic (see TC 21st February), and now Martin Scorsese announces he’s working on a film about Dylan. Haynes famously said he’s casting seven different actors to play Dylan over the various periods of his career, including a woman. Maybe Scorsese could get Leonardo DiCaprio to play the young Bob, Daniel Day-Lewis for the middle years, Robert “Bob” De Niro for the present “grizzly” version and Cameron Diaz for everything else.

* * *

As poor old Jean-Pierre Garnier sobs to the Telegraph that he’s “not Mother Teresa”, Richard Adams outlines in the Guardian’s City Diary the definitive reasons why the Glaxo Fat Cat is not the Angel of Calcutta.

What’s in a name?

George Monbiot writes an excellent piece today about an attempt by a Belgian lawyer to try General Tommy Franks for war crimes in Iraq. Belgium is the only country in the world which has, or had until now anyway, a law allowing people to be tried for such crimes even if they were committed outside Belgium or didn’t involve the country. It’s a great story, especially since it “outraged” the US, but sadly the Belgian authorities rushed to amend the law to avoid international embarrassment.

* * *

The Times reports on the incredible feat of endurance that “old Harrovian” Pen Hadow, or Rupert Nigel Pendrill Hadow to give him his full name, has performed by walking solo to the North Pole. The print version of the story also lists some other (ant)arctic explorers including Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes and Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton. It’s a fantastic result for the guy, no question, and I wouldn’t’ve been able to do it myself, but surely a true world record for a British explorer would be to get to the North Pole with only a name like Dave Grubb or something?

The man with Africa in the palm of his hand

The Times reported yesterday that a hand-print made by Nelson Mandela shows a curious Africa-type shape made by the depression in his palm. The story does have a certain Turin Shroud quality about it, but it’s a nice idea and a lovely image all the same. However, I couldn’t help but try it out for myself. I used the same gouache I used to paint my guitar case the other week and, apart from making a right mess of table, keyboard, mouse and wash basin, I came up with an amazing result…




Okay, here’s my real print:


Well, there’s a bit missing off the west coast, but to all intents and purposes, it’s Africa, innit?