Thursday, May 26, 2011

Listening To The Rain

The documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis has always been remarkably clever at mixing mood-music and visual images to jarring - and occasionally downright eerie effect - with incongruous snatches of archive and news footage providing the backdrop for his fascinating visual essays. His previous work has included such acclaimed series as Pandora's Box (1992, which brilliantly examined the dangers of technocratic and political rationality in the post-war world), The Living Dead (1995, investigated the way that history and memory - both national and individual - have been used by successive generations of politicians), The Century of Self (2002), The Power of Nightmares (2004, which suggested a direct parallel between the rise of Islamism in the Arab world and Neoconservatism in the United States in that both needed to inflate the myth of a dangerous enemy in order to draw people to support their cause) and 2007's The Trap - What Happened To Our Dream Of Freedom? All thought-provoking. All award-winning. All, rightly, acclaimed. The world that Curtis seems to inhabit is a bleak and twisted place which is littered with the corpses of a variety of ill-considered socio-political conceits. Sadly, it's the same world that the rest of us live in as well. Curtis lays out strands of otherwise ignored elements of history and displays the jigsaw being assembled - like a modern day James Burke - giving the audience a grasp of some of the less likely connections which literally hold the world together. As the Observer once put it, an abiding theme of Curtis's documentaries 'has been to look at how different elites have tried to impose an ideology on their times, and the tragicomic consequences of those attempts.' This description nicely sums up the essence of Curtis's new three-part series which began with a daring parabolic narrative that seeks to connect the monomaniac philosophies of Ayn Rand to the rise of California's Silicon Valley to the Clinton White House and Alan Greenspan's basilisk-like reign on Wall Street. All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace, - the opening episode of which was broadcast on Monday - examines society's now inextricable entanglement with computers, and how they've come to dominate not only our lives but also our financial markets and the way in which they interact with each other. Like his earlier films - especially Panodra's Box - the opening episode, Love And Power, made seemingly incongruous links between current events and those of the past. Beginning in 1950s America, Curtis persuasively argues that the author and philosopher Ayn Rand was directly responsible for the computer-controlled social and economic systems which have subsequently developed, and specifically for the so-called 90s 'New Economy.' Through her best-selling novels like The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), Rand argued the case for her own personal brand of dystopian philosophy, 'objectivism.' It was Rand's view that it was through pursuing purely individual happiness, rather than showing any inherent concern for others, that society could achieve true and lasting stability. Old forms of religious and governmental control - and even the concept of altruism in and of itself - she argued, were outmoded and useless and that through self-interest, society would find a structure to stabilise itself. In objectivism, Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith. She supported rational egoism and rejected ethical altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she believed was the only social system which could effectively protect individual rights. She promoted romantic realism in art and was sharply critical of most other philosophers and philosophical traditions. Particularly the other great new philosophical movement of the time, McLuhanism. 'The virtues of selfishness' was a philosophy, Curtis tells us, which was scorned at first but was later seized upon by the scientists and businessmen in America's electronics and financial sectors three decades later, all devoted Randites who saw themselves as Rand heroes made flesh. In 1991, a survey conducted for the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club asked readers what the most influential book in the respondent's life was. Rand's Atlas Shrugged was the second most popular choice, after the Bible. By that time, however, objectivism had already captured the imagination of Alan Greenspan, one of Rand's earliest acolytes, who would later become one of the most influential economic figures in the world during the Clinton administration as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Inspired by Greenspan's theoretical Randism, economists of the 90s believed in a system of self-regulation, in this instance governed over by computers, which would minimise the chances of financial collapse by carefully monitoring investments and the rise and fall of global markets. It was a belief which ultimately led to - firstly - the disastrous recession in Asia in the late 90s and then, in 2008, a similar financial catastrophe in the West. The shifting of power from government to the financial sector, it seemed, had created a new system that was just as unstable as the one it had replaced, in which a financial elite protected its own interests whilst those further down society's economic ladder were left to face economic ruin. Same as it ever was. Meanwhile, Curtis explored an interesting - though admittedly pretty tenuous - parallel between the doomed affairs of the heart of Rand and Bill Clinton; in both instances, Curtis noted, their power was all but destroyed by their furtive romantic relationships. Just as we were all about to sign up to be an objectivist with its me-me-me-me-me credo - 'Why do we need anyone? We have ourselves' – when it turned out the philosophy's leader only went and screwed up her own life by getting a crush on one of her 'Collective.' Curtis's skills as both a filmmaker and essayist make massively complex subjects like objectivist philosophy and global economics seem both approachable and genuinely intriguing for the viewer. As ever, Curtis has an unfailing eye for strange, the engaging and even the unsettling - check out, for instance, the dazzling opening montage of rapidly intercut images of modernity. The grim chronology of the 2008 recession will be familiar to any dear blog reader who has watched the film Inside Job, but the way it's told in All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace via a surreal mixture of archive footage and incongruous music is pure - and classic - Curtis. There is something more than a touch disturbing about watching the footage of scientist Lauren Carpenter's 1991 social experiment, which involved a gigantic game of Pong played by hundred of volunteers in a darkened shed. The experiment demonstrated that, even in a chaotic environment in which strangers operated a videogame by doing nothing more than holding up coloured bats, a large group can come to what Carpenter described as a 'subconscious consensus.' Although it's worth asking, is it the experiment itself that's disquieting, or the insidious away in which Curtis cuts other people's footage? It's like a scratch-mix, pulling a load of disparate elements together to produce something unexpected. 'The attack on the World Trade Center was an assault by political Islamism on American power. And on what the Islamists believed was the destructive force that drove that power. Radical individualism. When the World Trade Center Towers collapsed, everyone knew that everything had changed. But then, it didn't. The system returned to normal.' Curtis's ability to use the moving image, music and his own voice to put over his arguments shouldn't be underestimated, and his penetrating critique on the subject of the growing power of financial entities is alarmingly persuasive. Possibly the episode's most astonishing juxtaposition is the use of that, by now hugely familiar clip of Clinton and Monica Lewinski captured on a bit of TV news B-Roll looking at each other like a pair of star-crossed lovers, slowed down to a snail's pace with Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne' playing over it. Another remarkable moment is Crutis's use of Carmen Hermosillo's famous Pandora's Vox 'commodification' essay: 'It is fashionable to suggest that cyberspace is some island of the blessed where people are free to indulge and express their individuality,' she wrote. 'This is not right. Cyberspace is a black hole. It absorbs energy and personality and then re-presents it as an emotional spectacle. It is done by businesses that commodify human interaction and emotion and we are getting lost in the spectacle.' This is, again, accompanied by rapidly intercut images of daily computer usage. In a world apparently enslaved by a computerised economic system - not to mentioned one that seems to be largely driven by social media of one form or another - we can be grateful that Curtis isn't writing propaganda on behalf of well, anybody really. Because, if he was, you wouldn't be able to trust a word anybody said! As the Metro reviewer noted, 'Weaving an elliptical narrative from the selfish scions of Silicon Valley to the global economic meltdown via the power vacuum created by the Clinton presidency, Curtis playfully debunked the idea of a computer-driven Utopia and questioned why we've been suckered into believing that everything and everyone is simply a tiny part of an interconnected system. Did I follow it all? No chance. But it made me think more in an hour that most TV does in a year.' Best documentary television has produced in at least five years. Count me in for the next two episodes.

House concluded its seventh series with wekk in a suitably smashing way (literal and well as metaphorical) with an episode called Moving On. The creative team really have their work cut out for them next season following the departure of Lisa Edelstein. But, if anyone can pull off a reformatting, it's David Shore and his production team.
MTV's new reality TV show Geordie Shore premiered with an audience of three hundred and twenty thousand sick voyeurs on Tuesday evening, while Channel Four's Four Rooms failed to break the one million mark, the latest overnight audience data has revealed. Geordie Shore, a thoroughly tawdry and embarrassing British spin-off of the US show Jersey Shore featuring some of 'the biggest party animals in the North-East' - or glakes, charvas and radjies as most relatively normal Tynesiders call them - debuted with three hundred and twenty thousand sad crushed victims of society watching it on MTV in the 10pm hour. The premiere episode included the housemates having a - very obviously staged - fist fight in a club, one night stands and a decent slab of mild nudity in a shared hot tub. Makes one proud of ones city, does it not? Also launching on Tuesday night was Four Rooms, a factual series in which members of the public attempt to sell rare and unique items to four dealers, with the show averaging a modest nine hundred and fifty thousand for Channel Four in the 8pm hour and an additional one hundred and eighty four thousand on C4+1. In the 9pm hour, Crimewatch was watched by 4.83m on BBC1, beating ITV's disastrous exercise in 'adopt a tramp' Home Is Where The Heart Is, which had a mere 1.9m viewers on ITV and one hundred and three thousand on ITV+1. The Secret Millionaire's audience, 1.61m on Channel Four, was down four hundred thousand week-on-week. One overnight rating figure that should be genuinely depressing to anyone with a moral compass was the 4.1m viewers who watched ITV's latest exercise in sycophantic royal chuff-licking Prince Philip At Ninety. As Metro's Keith Watson noted: 'The red carpet, otherwise known as Alan Titchmarsh's tongue, was out in full force for the royal cap-doffing fest that was Prince Philip At Ninety. Titchmarsh, straining for gravity and buffing up his accent, came across like a social-climbing garden gnome. Out they trotted, the posh and the posher, falling over themselves to big-up Phil as a man of honour and duty, a misunderstood charmer who had given up his flourishing career in the Navy to serve Queen and country. Not his country, exactly, but when you're an exiled royal prince you sail under any flag that'll have you. To his credit, the not-really-Greek-after-all Phil made it abundantly clear he had no time for the toadying Titchmarsh's smarm offensive. At any minute you expected Phil to say: "Who let you in? Aren't you the gardener?"' The Torygraph's Michael Deacon went further: 'Cynics may suggest that Titchmarsh was a soft option. On the contrary, he presented the Duke with a tough challenge – the challenge of resisting the temptation to groan every time Titchmarsh spoke. "How important was fatherhood to you," Titchmarsh asked, "compared with being the Queen's consort?" As well as inane, the question is more or less impossible to answer.'

And, speaking of Geordie lasses with a voice like paint-stripper and all of the personality of a whelk, the Heaton Horror Cheryl Cole will no longer appear as a judge on The X Factor USA, it has been widely reported. According to the TMZ website, the singer has been replaced on the American panel by former Pussycat Dolls frontwoman Nicole Scherzinger. 'Sources' for Sky are said to have confirmed the news. Scherzinger had been filling the role of co-host for the series alongside Steve Jones. The site claims that producers made the change over concerns that Cole's 'thick' accent (their words, not mine) would be too difficult for the audience to understand and that the singer had 'a lack of chemistry' with fellow judge Paula Abdul. Cole is now, allegedly, wanted for the new series of the UK X Factor, although - according to 'sources' - 'it appears unlikely that the pop star would return to her former show.' Cole was to appear alongside Abdul, LA Reid and series creator Simon Cowell in the line-up. Cole recently appeared in a new X Factor USA promotional video with Jones in order to introduce them to an American audience. However, she was said to have 'angered' fans during auditions for the FOX talent show earlier this month after she was seated between Cowell and Abdul on the judging panel. Representatives are currently unavailable for comment. Of course, the British press reported this is the sort of supremely way you might expect. Cheryl Cole: SACKED From X Factor USA was the Daily Scum Mail's take on the affair. Try not to sound too delighted guys. No, actually, come to think about it, go for it.

The BBC Trust has launched a service review of the BBC News Channel and sister network BBC Parliament, scrutinising their 'quality, distinctiveness and value for money.' During the eight-week public consultation, the Trust will also analyse the BBC's 'future plans' for the BBC News Channel, which reaches more than nine million viewers each week with rolling news coverage, and BBC Parliament, which serves around one million viewers with coverage of the latest developments from Westminster. BBC trustee Patricia Hodgson, who is leading the review, said: 'News is at the very core of the BBC's public service mission, and the BBC plays an integral role in fostering informed democratic debate in the UK. Over nine million viewers watch the News Channel's up-to-the-minute coverage of local, UK and international events, every week; a further million tune into BBC Parliament. That means there are a lot of people out there with views on these channels, and we want to hear what they think.' Licence fee payers can submit their views on both channels for the next eight weeks via the Trust's website. The final report will be published in early 2012. The Trust stressed that the service review is separate to the Delivering Quality First process, which is the BBC's drive to achieve efficiency and cost savings of twenty per cent.

Anna Kournikova will join the US version of The Biggest Loser next season, it has been confirmed. The international tennis star made an appearance on stage during the grand final of the NBC weight loss reality show following speculation that she would join the programme as a trainer. She will replace the departing Jillian Michaels. Kournikova told the audience that she was 'beyond excited' to join the show. And at the opportunity to poke fun at some fatties.

Doctor Who will face the double peril of live football and Britain's Got Talent, for its final episode before the mid-season break, according to schedules published this week. A Good Man Goes to War, which showrunner Steven Moffat promises will contain a 'game-changing cliffhanger', has been given a fifty minute slot between 6.40 and 7.30pm on Saturday 4 June. It will follow the lamentable So You Think You Can Dance Live on BBC1 and is followed by The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins. As Doctor Who goes on air, ITV will be showing England playing Switzerland with live Football Coverage of the Euro 2012 Group G qualifier at Wembley Stadium, although the match should just about be over before Doctor Who starts. Unless there's loads of injury time. At 7pm they go into the Britain's Got Talent final.

David Cameron is reported to be resisting calls for 'international regulation of the web' by that well-known Stalinist Nicolas Sarkozy at the G8 summit. The French president will table proposals for 'controls' on the Internet on the first day of the conference of world leaders in Deauville, Normandy. Cameron's officials stressed to the British press that they believed there were 'many hurdles and mechanisms' before anyone could regulate the net internationally. 'We will not be regulating the Internet any time soon,' said a Downing Street official. The obvious next question is, why - short of a very sinister reason indeed - would anyone want to? Sarkozy convened a conference in Paris attended by one thousand digital executives. He warned them against monopoly control, copyright breaches and intrusions into personal privacy. Referring to the British case in which Ryan Giggs was repeated named on Twitter in defiance of a high court injunction, which can now be reported after MP John Hemming named Giggs under parliamentary privilege, the French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, admitted the difficulties involved in striking a balance between freedom and regulation. She said: 'We are exploring, we are stumbling, we are trying to identify what will be the right tools [and] legal principles.' Nick Clegg criticised the Lib Dem MP who named Giggs in the Commons, making clear he did not support John Hemming's action - which is fair enough since most of his own party don't support Nick Clegg: 'I do not think that anyone should be above the rule of law. If we do not like the law in this place, we should act as legislators to change the law, not flout it.' Lord Carlile, the Lib Dem peer, suggested that those journalists and other members of the community who had broken the injunctions by naming Giggs on Twitter before Hemming named him in parliament 'can and possibly should' be brought before a court for contempt while human rights lawyer Lord Lester suggested MPs had now become 'part of the crisis.' Sarkozy stressed that 'if technology is neutral and should remain so, the uses are not,' pointing out that the protection of children and respect for privacy were universal principles. 'Do not let the revolution you started undermine basic rights of individuals to privacy and to full autonomy,' he warned. Five of the participants at Sarkozy's meeting in Paris are due to deliver a report to the G8 world leaders. But judging by Cameron's officials' response, Sarkozy's efforts will struggle to gain traction with world leaders. Sarkozy described the Internet as the third globalisation and praised it for creating tens of thousands of jobs, but also called for greater social responsibility. He warned: 'Your work can be considered historic and impacts on civilisation. With this in mind, your level of responsibility is undoubtedly the highest ever given to individuals who do not work in the public sector or as state representatives. Now that the Internet is an integral part of most people's lives, it would be contradictory to exclude governments from this huge forum,' said Sarkozy. 'Nobody could, nor should, forget that these governments are the only legitimate representatives of the will of the people in our democracies,' he added. 'To forget this is to take the risk of democratic chaos and hence anarchy.' He reminded the industry of its responsibilities in the fields of piracy, drawing a parallel between intellectual property on which many web companies are built and the copyright that artists seek to protect. 'These algorithms that constitute your power, this technology that is changing the world, are your property and nobody can contest that,' he said. 'Writers, directors or actors can have the same rights.' The guests included the executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, the News International chairman, Rupert Murdoch, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Cameron, whose aides are close to Google, support what they see as the beneficial impact of the web on growth, society and government. They are suspicious of international regulation. But Cameron is under pressure from social conservatives to do more to control the effect of the web on children. Cameron's officials tried to play down Sarkozy's move, saying they intended to make sure nothing newsworthy emerged from the G8 over the initiative. They also stressed that they saw the Internet as beneficial and said the discussion at the G8 should be forward-looking. Lord Lester, the Liberal Democrat peer, said regulation of the web was currently internationally difficult. He pointed out that the US president, Barack Obama, had signed a law last year which prevents English judgments relating to defamation being enforceable in the States. Sarkozy's effort to look at the governance of the web is also being resisted by digital executives. Schmidt asked governments to look first at technological solutions before legislating. He said governments were struggling to understand the way the Internet was empowering individuals. 'We will move faster than the public sector,' said Schmidt. He urged governments to 'tread lightly,' saying 'Clearly you need some level of regulation for the evil stuff. But I would be careful about over-regulating.' Now, if only somebody could make a documentary about what a really bad idea that is. Where's Adam Curtis when you really need him?

Three further episodes of the next series of Qi have been filmed this week. The previously mentioned Idleness with Jezza Clarkson, Ross noble and Dara Ó Briain was followed by The Immortal Bard. This will feature Bill Bailey, Sue Perkins and David Mitchell. Bill will also appear in episode eight, Inventions along with sean Lock and first time guest the actress and comedian Nina Conti. The sixteen episode series in due to begin on BBC2 'in the autumn.'

Sky News was publicly bumped from asking President Obama and David Cameron a question at yesterday's joint press conference in London. Four questions were asked, two from the British media, and two from the American media. Writing on Twitter, Sky News political correspondent, the excellently-named Glen O'Glaza said: 'Selected to ask the first question then de-selected. Downing St decided ITN should get my slot Outrageous!' He later added: 'To clarify: We drew lots, two questions, BBC and Sky came out of hat. An official at Number 10 decided ITN should get Q [sic] instead. #questiongate.' In a reply to Paul Waugh, Editor of the PoliticsHome.com website, Glen added: 'PS: fucking #questiongate! Very annoyed!' Nick Robinson asked the first question and Tom Bradby asked the second question on the behalf of ITN.

The Daily Scum Mail has named the 'four celebrities at the centre of the Twitter row over Ryan Giggs's affair with Imogen Thomas' as Piers Morgan, Dom Joly, Toby Young and Boy George.' The quartet, who between them had over nine hundred and fifty thousand followers on the microblogging social network site, could face a massive legal bill for damages after identifying the footballer. They were among around seventy five thousand people who named Giggs, defying a court gagging order before John Hemming identified Giggs as being the person behind the injunction. 'The "famous four"' the newspaper states, are 'the most high-profile Twitter users to be identified - and could now pay the price. Giggs can only be revealed as the footballer who obtained a gagging order thanks to the maverick MP's use of parliamentary privilege to name him. Today ex-Britain's Got Talent judge Morgan, Trigger Happy TV star Joly, author Young and Boy George were told they could be in for a "rude shock" - because they flouted the gagging order.' Attorney General Dominic Grieve told the Commons: 'Those who I think may take an idea that modern methods of communication mean they can act with impunity may well find themselves in for a rude shock. The courts do have the power to punish those who breach injunctions. Those who decide flagrantly to do so should bear that in mind.' Giles Coren, the broadcaster, restaurant critic and columnist for The Times, was accused of breaching privacy laws to tweet banned information about another footballer and was briefly thought to have been threatened with jail - or, at least, a couple of newspapers claimed that he had been. Coren also mocked the farcical situation, tweeting: 'Bollocks, I was looking forward to one of those suits with arrows as you can probably imagine, I was rather looking forward to being a free speech martyr. Now I'm just a paid pie-eater again.' Joly drew attention to the affair, according to the Scum Mail when he tweeted: 'Frst [sic], shag tart, then silence tart with g(i)gging order, then sue Twitter when normal people talk about it. I have not had sex with Ryan Giggs - just thought I'd make that plain'. Hemming said that he was prepared to go to jail to protect people from Britain's 'secretive' justice system in which an anonymous individual could take action which could see another person jailed. But, unlike the others, he's the only one that is in absolutely no danger of going to jail. Unless, of course, he chooses to name an injunction holder outside of parliamentary privilege. Something which, to date, he's shown remarkably little inclination to do. A small bomb lobbed into the end of Friday's report by Lord Neuberger no doubt gave some newsrooms cause to consider just how safe they were in reporting Hemming's disclosure in parliament that Giggs had been granted an injunction. Neuberger pointed out that while Hansard has the protection of the 1840 Parliamentary Papers Act against legal proceedings, most media reporting of parliament does not get such protection because it is not published by order of parliament. This leaves the media relying on what is called 'qualified privilege.' There is no doubt that qualified privilege defends reports of parliament against defamation proceedings. However, the current debate is not about defamation, it is about contempt of court – an entirely different area of law. Qualified privilege is a defence with conditions placed upon it. The report must be fair, accurate, 'on a matter of public interest' and 'published without malice.' It is this requirement of public interest and absence of malice that are crucial. In his report Lord Neuberger said: 'It therefore appears to be an open question whether and to what extent the common law protects media reporting of parliamentary proceedings where such reporting appears to breach the terms of a court order and is not covered by the protection provided by the 1840 Act.' I don't know about anybody else but for even the remote possibility of seeing Piers Morgan banged up with all the murderers and the rapists and the people who nick stuff from Morrison's, I reckon this entire fiasco might, just, have been worth it.

A superinjunction obtained by the father-in-law of the television chef Gordon Ramsay has been partially lifted by an order of the court of appeal. Chris Hutcheson failed in an attempt to retain an injunction gagging the press in a case involving his family reports the Gruniad Morning Star. Probably because he's not famous enough.

UK web traffic to Twitter increased by twenty two per cent on Saturday as users rushed to the microblogging site to try to discover the identity of the footballer who had taken out an injunction, new figures have revealed. According to data from measurement company Experian Hitwise, Twitter experienced its highest ever volume of online traffic on 21 May, with the site accounting for one in every one hundred and eighty four web visits in the UK on that day. Twitter now commands 0.54 per cent of all UK web traffic. Saturday's usage was also ten per cent higher than for Twitter's previous busiest day in Britain, which occurred on 9 May when an account was created claiming to reveal the identities of people who had taken out injunctions to prevent the press from reporting details of their private lives. In its research, Hitwise found that there was a big increase in search terms linked to the injunction served on Twitter by lawyers representing Giggs. The fourth most popular web search term was 'Ryan Giggs suing Twitter' in the week ending 21 May, while 'who is CTB footballer?' was the tenth most searched term (Giggs was - and indeed, still is - referred to as CTB in submitted court documents). However, the most frequently submitted web search last week was 'gail porter "sectioned"', referring to reports that the TV presenter was having treatment for mental health problems. Writing on the Hitwise corporate blog, UK research director Robin Goad said that Twitter's spike in UK traffic shows that the site is growing even faster than Facebook. 'Within the growth of Twitter, twelve per cent of visits to the website are coming from new users. To put that into context, 99.5 per cent of visits to Facebook in the UK come from returning visitors, but Twitter continues to attract new users to its website every single day,' he wrote. 'Facebook is clearly much bigger than Twitter (about fifteen times bigger in terms of volume of visits) but Facebook's growth in terms of new visitors (in the UK market at least) has been pretty static for some months now.'

Edward James Olmos has signed up to appear in the upcoming sixth season of Dexter. Showtime announced that the actor, who is described as a 'special guest star,' will play a professor of religious studies. His character is described as 'brilliant" and charismatic.' Olmos previously starred as William Adama in Battlestar Galactica and has also worked on shows including Miami Vice, The West Wing and American Family. He played Gaff in the movie Blade Runner. Olmos's casting follows news that Aimee Garcia, actor and musician Mos and Colin Hanks have signed up to appear in the new season of Dexter.

Status Quo suffered an unfortunate audio malfunction during their appearance on ITV1's breakfast flop Daybreak when their new single 'Rock 'n' Roll 'n' You!' repeatedly skipped back to the beginning when their backing CD failed, reports the Daily Lies. A Daybreak spokesman said: 'The band and fans still enjoyed a great performance.' Again, and again, and again. Mind you, one could argue that it's the turgid old rockers' own fault for going on such a ghastly and disgraceful sham of a show in the first place. Presumably, The ONE Show didn't want them?

Natalie Cassidy's fiancé has reportedly been arrested after allegedly attacking her. According to the the Sun, police were called to the property the ex-EastEnders actress shares with Adam Cottrell. The thirty one-year-old, who is said to have 'smashed furniture during the row on Sunday night,' is thought to have been charged with two counts of assault and criminal damage. Cassidy and Cottrell welcomed their first child, Eliza Beatrice, last October. The couple, who met at the Isle of Wight music festival in 2009, became engaged last year during a trip to Italy. Discussing her relationship with Cottrell, Cassidy recently told a magazine: 'We are having more sex than ever. But we're not at it like rabbits.' Hertfordshire police said: 'A man has been charged with two counts of assault by beating and two counts of criminal damage. He will appear at East Herts Magistrates' Court on 31 May. We will not be commenting further.'

Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam war classic Apocalypse Now will be back in UK cinemas for a limited run on 26 May before its special edition, three-disc Blu-ray release on 13 June. It's the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with Coppola's Oscar-winning masterpiece, which stars Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford and Laurence Fishburne.

Pensioners are planning to protest outside a venue where the BBC's Question Time is being filmed as part of a campaign to secure an invite on to the flagship programme. The National Pensioners Convention, which has one and a half million members, has been unsuccessfully lobbying for one of its spokespeople to be included on the panel. Members have decided to take direct action by protesting outside venues where the programme is being filmed, beginning with the University of Exeter in Devon, the venue for this week's show. They have vowed to follow the programme around the country and protest wherever it is filmed. Oh, I hope that they do. And I hope the cameras are rolling when they're dragged off to prison by their zimmer frames. The NPC's general secretary, Dot Gibson, seventy six, said: 'The first time we applied in 2010 we were told we weren't well known enough as an organisation. Then we were told our representatives wouldn't be able to cope with the lights and the stress of a live broadcast. It's ridiculous and condescending and smacks of ageism. We have accused the BBC of ageism in the past as it seems they don't want to acknowledge our existence or our right to a voice in society.' The NPC says inclusion on the programme will offer a valid perspective on the nature of public sector and pension cuts on the elderly. It also wishes to discuss the quality of care provided for old people, and where the cost of this should lie, and how changes to the retirement age are likely to impact on the rest of society. Gibson pointed out that former panellists had included the leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, as well as sportspeople and showbusiness stars but refused to have the NPC on. 'There's simply a refusal to accept that there is a pensioner movement in this country and that we are officially represented,' she added. The BBC on Wednesday rejected accusations of ageism and insisted 'all sections of society' are represented on the Question Time panel. The spokesman added: 'Question Time prides itself on representing all sections of society. Both the Question Time panel and audience are chosen to reflect a wide range of demographics, which includes pensioners. Many of our panellists are over or close to the age of retirement, including twenty in the current series, as are members of the invited audience.' Responding to a claim that the panel had never included a genuine representative of elderly people, the spokesman said: 'As a point of clarification, on 15 October 2009, Dame Joan Bakewell was a panellist as an "adviser to the government on the elderly" so the statement that there "has never been a genuine representative of pensioners allowed to speak on their behalf on Question Time" is untrue. Political parties are the only organisations that have guaranteed representation on the Question Time panel. The selection of guests outside the political parties is usually based on topicality or direct involvement with an appropriate issue.'

Tom Mockridge, the chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's Sky Italia, told the chief executive of Al Gore's Current TV over lunch that there would no problem with the channel renewing its television distribution deal – less than two weeks before abruptly announcing that the liberal news channel would have no choice but go off-air. Mockridge was also accused of making a 'sham offer' to Current TV – to make it look like News Corporation, Sky Italia's owner, was engaged in normal commercial negotiations – when in fact the Murdoch-controlled media group had decided to drop the channel for what Current TV claimed are political reasons. Joel Hyatt, Current TV's co-founder and vice-chairman, told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'One week Mockridge was telling me "let's get this deal done" then a few days later he rings to say actually "I'm not renewing you at all." We then learnt [sic] from a senior executive at FOX that we've been dropped because of an order from News Corporation.' Last week Al Gore, the former US vice-president and chairman of Current TV, accused News Corporation of 'an abuse of power.' He said they had been told News Corp had decided to drop Current TV from its Italian pay-TV service because the channel was about to launch a show presented by liberal US commentator Keith Olbermann, a regular Murdoch critic. News Corp, however, countered by saying that it had taken the decision on purely commercial grounds and said Current TV had 'asked Sky Italia for double the carriage fee when primetime viewing had fallen by forty per cent in the past year' and that 'it had nothing to do with politics.' In an attempt to refute News Corp's argument, Hyatt highlighted the sudden changes of tack by News Corp in the past month. Hyatt said he met Mockridge for a friendly 'four-hour lunch' at the Locanda Chiaravalle restaurant on the outskirts of Milan on 8 April – in which the News Corp executive gave him the impression he was keen to renew. Hyatt then returned to the US where he received another positive e-mail – but the tone dramatically changed in a 21 April phone call where Mockridge this time said Current TV's contract would not be renewed. That was followed by a letter from Mockridge dated 22 April which said: 'As anticipated via telephone, we are confirming, that unfortunately given severe and unexpected budget constraints, we are not in a position to negotiate a new carriage agreement.' Current TV executives tried to get the decision reversed, holding a meeting with James Murdoch, News Corp's deputy chief operating officer who oversees its European businesses, on 10 May in Los Angeles. Hyatt said that he was told by Murdoch that he would look into the matter, which in turn prompted renewed contact with Sky Italia. During these brief negotiations, Current says it sought a thirty three per cent increase on the 3.3m Euros-a-year it was being paid, only for the News Corp subsidiary to respond by saying the fee should be cut by two-thirds. Hyatt told the Gruniad that 'the offer they made was a sham offer, purely to suggest they were engaged in negotiations when in fact they were not.' Current TV rejected the offer, with the result that the TV station will go off air in Italy at the end of July. News Corp insiders reiterated that the decision to offer Current TV a cut price deal reflected commercial realities, and that its conduct had – as per previous statements - 'nothing to do with politics.'

FIFA has long sullied its reputation, with one corruption charge after the other against its top executives. The recent cash for vote scandal is not the first one to hit the organisation and nor will it be the last, at least according to football journalist Brian Glanville in a devastating attack on FIFA at the Sportstar website. 'The lunatics, you might say, are taking over the asylum. Or purporting to,' Glanville begins. 'FIFA President Sepp Blatter, seemingly desperate to be imminently re-elected for a fourth term, has suddenly insisted on a three-week investigation by his flaccid so-called ethics committee into the dirty work at the World Cup crossroads. This hot-on-the-heels of the revelations made by the former main-man at the Football Association, Lord Triesman. Who had nothing to say on the scandalous subject while being unimpressively in charge; save telling his young lady friend an unconvincing tale about Spain and Russia getting together to bribe referees, which she promptly and treacherously made public. Goodness knows that after that undercover investigation by the Sunday Times, we already knew far too well that several members of the World Cup selection committee had elicited huge bribes. To which the ineffably feeble and evasive response of the FA's World Cup bid committee was to impugne the BBC Panorama television programme for having made further alarming revelations on the chicanery that was going on. Killing the messenger, indeed. It soon transpired that the nineteen million pounds allegedly spent by the English World Cup bidding committee was money down a drain which would have been usefully  - if deceitfully - deployed only by making bribery approaches to those biddable World Cup representatives. Russia and Qatar, the ultimate sheer parody of a host country decision, had long since bought and paid for. There was, in fact, a beautiful recent irony when Mike Lee, the Englishman advising Qatar on what seemed a wholly incongruous bid, criticised the Football Association for running an inadequate campaign. Just a day or so before it was revealed that Qatar had paid millions in bribes to two members of the World Cup selection committee. For all you know, Mr Lee might well have been as white as snow. He was even in England's bid for the 2012 Olympics, but it is surely legitimate to suggest that in the Qatar affair - a tiny country with no football legion and a roasting hot summer climate - he was either very naïve or very cynical. Especially ludicrous was the typically flagrant response of the outrageous Jack Warner of Trinidad who, having promised England his vote and, most humiliatingly, been invited into the 10, Downing Street residence of Prime Minister David Cameron and in the Zurich preamble, being courted not only by Cameron but by Prince William, the heir to the throne, duly voted elsewhere. But the shameless Warner has a long record, chronicled in detail in Andrew Jennings' devastating book, Foul! Time and again Warner, in his role as President of CONCACAF, whose votes had been vital to Blatter, and head of the Trinidad Federation, has grabbed huge sums of money out of FIFA, by no means always repaid, while for years on end he failed to pay the members of the gallant Trinidad team which surpassed itself in the 2006 World Cup, the money they were due. That Triesman and company should have initially courted this shameless man was horrible to see. In this regard Triesman revealed that Warner had demanded for his vote two and a half million pounds to build a so-called education centre in Trinidad. Predictably and vociferously, Warner denied this only for Dave Richards, the head of the FA Premier League, to confirm the story. Round up the usual suspects, you might say. Not least the former son-in-law of Joao Havelange, with whose FIFA presidency the rot set in, Ricardo Teixeira, an old foe of Pele. He asked Triesman, in Qatar, "Tell me what you've got for me?" To put it politely, Teixeira is no stranger to controversy in his own country; yet he survives.' All of this comes on the day that FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam has denied bribery allegations made against him by FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer. The American claims that FIFA's ethics code was violated at a meeting 'organised' by Bin Hammam and Jack Warner. Four officials, including Bin Hammam and Warner, will face a FIFA ethics hearing on 29 May, ahead of the presidential vote. Bin Hammam said that he is 'confident that there is no charge to answer.' The Press Association says that a file has been sent to FIFA which includes sworn affidavits by several Caribbean Football Union members, who claim they were offered thousands of dollars in cash for 'development projects' at the meeting earlier this month. The file, which includes photographs, says some of the cash was accepted, but some of those who refused to take any money approached Blazer. The Caribbean meeting, on 10 and 11 May, was in relation to the FIFA presidential election which takes place on 1 June. The other two officials to face the hearing are Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester from the CFU, which represents twenty five FIFA member nations as well as five territories not affiliated to FIFA. Bin Hammam - the sixty two-year-old president of the Asian Football Confederation - is running against current FIFA president Sepp Blatter to be the new head of football's world governing body. Bin Hammam released a statement on his website, which continued: 'This has been a difficult and painful day for me today. But, if there is even the slightest justice in the world, these allegations will vanish in the wind. This move is little more than a tactic being used by those who have no confidence in their own ability to emerge successfully from the FIFA presidential election. I remain deeply indebted to Mr Warner for his sense of fair play because without his support and understanding I would not have been able to meet with several important member associations of FIFA to discuss my election manifesto. Here I completely deny any allegations of wrongdoing either intentionally or unknowingly while I was in the Caribbean. I will offer Mr Warner my full support in ensuring we are discharged honourably by the FIFA ethics committee, a body which I hold in the highest esteem. I am confident that there is no charge to answer and that I will be free to stand in the FIFA presidential election on 1 June as originally planned.' FIFA has announced that Claudio Sulser, the head of the ethics committee, will not take charge of the hearing as he shares Swiss nationality with Bin Hammam's presidential rival Blatter. The committee's deputy chairman Petrus Damaseb of Namibia will instead chair proceedings. The FIFA statement read: 'On 24 May 2011, FIFA executive committee member and Concacaf general secretary Chuck Blazer reported to FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke possible violations of the FIFA code of ethics allegedly committed by officials. In particular, the report referred to a special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union, apparently organised jointly by FIFA vice-president Jack A Warner and FIFA executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam, which took place on 10 and 11 May 2011. This meeting was linked to the upcoming FIFA presidential election. In view of the facts alleged in this report, which include bribery allegations, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, in compliance with art. Sixteen of the FIFA code of ethics, yesterday requested the FIFA ethics committee to open ethics proceedings.' The allegations - levelled by Warner's longtime Concacaf ally Blazer - are likely to wreck Bin Hammam's already fading hopes of defeating Blatter in the vote by FIFA's 208 national members. 'The intriguing part of this is the person who has brought the complaints, Chuck Blazer,' former Sports Minister Richard Caborn told the BBC. 'He obviously has been on the inside track in FIFA for many, many years. He's very close to Jack Warner. What his motives are, we will have to wait and see. It could well be the start of a total look at how FIFA is run in the future. Whether the pressure is now telling and that people are saying: "We have now got to make this organisation fit for purpose."' MP Damian Collins, who named Confederation of African Football president Issa Hayatou and executive committee member Jacques Anouma in Parliament as allegedly receiving bribes from Qatar 2022, called on FIFA to abandon next week's presidential election. 'FIFA needs to have a proper independent investigation and the timetable does not allow this to happen before next week,' said Collins. 'If Bin Hammam is suspended it would be unacceptable for the election to simply become a shoe-in for Sepp Blatter. There must be a new election with new candidates allowed to come forward.' Both Hayatou and Anouma have denied the claims while Qatar 2022 World Cup officials described allegations they paid bribes in return for votes as 'distressing, insulting and incomprehensible.' News of the FIFA inquiry comes soon after FIFA launched a separate investigation into claims made by former Football Association and England 2018 World Cup bid chairman Lord Triesman. Triesman alleged that four FIFA members - the odious Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Ricardo Teixeira and Worawi Makudi - sought 'bribes' in return for backing England's failed 2018 World Cup bid. Warner said the allegations made against him by Triesman were 'a piece of nonsense.' On Sunday, Blatter angrily denied that FIFA is totally corrupt and added there is no evidence to support recent accusations of wrongdoing. Blatter's campaign adviser Brian Alexander said the FIFA president would not comment on the case. Of course, it's worth pointing out that the FA's recent decision to abstain from voting in the upcoming FIFA presidential election may seem like a principled stance, but in reality it is a step away from one of the biggest issues ever to face football at just the moment a breakthrough seemed to be on the horizon. After the Panorama and Sunday Times investigations, after Lord Triesman making allegations in front of a Parliamentary commission and after the widespread condemnation at awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, it felt as though a tipping point was approaching. A perfect storm was brewing, with conditions in place which could have seen a new president with an open agenda for reforming the game's governing body. The net seems to be closing on the Executive Committee members who allegedly sold, or at least tried to sell, their votes on who should host the World Cup for money or honours. Removing one vote from the process still leaves two hundred and seven in it. Nominating and actively supporting a third candidate would have at least given the dissenting voices a platform within FIFA's cavernous headquarters, bringing those accused to task in their own back yard.

Denmark has reportedly banned Marmite because of the added vitamins and minerals which it contains. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration is responsible for the ban on the divisive spread, which breaks food laws passed in 2004. Marmite joins previously banned items including the Australian alternative Vegemite, Ovaltine and various breakfast cereals. 'What am I supposed to put on my toast now?' British advertising executive Colin Smith asked the Daily Scum Mail. Err... butter? Jam? Marmalade? How about having it dry, it's probably healthier? 'I still have a bit left in the cupboard, but it's not going to last long.' Copenhagen-based shop Abigails has now launched a Bring Back Marmite campaign. 'Marmite was one of our best-selling products. Not a day goes by without someone coming in and asking for it,' said Marianne Ørum, who runs the store with her Scottish partner. 'It's becoming impossible to run a business in this country. The government keeps making things illegal.' The Danish government has so far not commented on its decision.

The evangelist who predicted last Saturday to be the end of the world has announced a new date for The Rapture. Harold Camping previously said that Judgment Day would happen on 21 May in the form of an earthquake 'beyond the shadow of a doubt,' but he has now admitted that he was 'slightly mistaken.' In a speech broadcast, the American called 21 May an 'invisible Judgment Day' and added: 'We've always said 21 May was the day, but we didn't understand altogether the spiritual meaning. 21 May is the day that Christ came and put the world under judgment.' Camping also mentioned that both The Rapture and the apocalypse will now happen on 21 October, and that because Judgment Day happened on Saturday, there was little point warning people about the end of the world. He stated: 'The fact is, there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven. If God has saved them, they're going to be caught up.'

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, we have the band with a name that could almost have been designed for this blog. Twang your epic Fender Mr Verlaine so that all the dear blog readers of the world can tune in to the right channel.

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