Sunday, March 27, 2011

There's A Secret Stigma, Reaping Wheel, Diminish A Carnival Of Sorts

Once he took on the fast-food giant McDonald's in the documentary Supersize Me. Then he targeted the war on terror in Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? Now the hit documentary film-maker Morgan Spurlock has a new target: the advertising industry. Spurlock, whose cinéma-vérité style has made him one of the world's best-known documentary-makers, and who seems much more likeable than Michael Moore, has decided to take on the increasingly active phenomenon of product placement. His new film, called The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, was a smash at the Sundance festival earlier this year and will be released in the US next month. It follows Spurlock as he tries to get funding for his film from numerous corporations – an endeavour which results in an exploration of the way in which advertisers have increasingly started to pay a lot of money to place their brands in films and television programmes. 'What I want to do is make a film about product placement, marketing and advertising where the entire film is funded by product placement, marketing and advertisement,' Spurlock explains in the movie. He managed to persuade fifteen brands to stump up cash. Testament to his success, the film's full-length title is POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold as a California-based pomegranate juice drink agreed to a hefty sponsorship. The film is coming out at a time when product placement is becoming increasingly controversial amid huge changes in the advertising industry. The rise of devices like Tivo in the US and Sky + in the UK – which allow people to record shows and skip the adverts – and the increasing number of viewers who watch films and TV through the Internet and on DVD has meant that fewer people are exposed to traditional methods of advertising. One recent statistic estimated that perhaps ninety per cent of prime-time TV viewers in the US simply are no longer prepared to watch the adverts. 'People record shows or watch them online. I haven't watched a TV commercial in a long time,' said Jeff Greenfield, the publisher of Product Placement News. That situation has placed huge pressure on advertisers to get their products in front of viewers' eyeballs in more subtle ways. American Idol judges now sit with cans of Coke in front of them. Car chases have the hero driving certain makes of vehicle. Actors wear clothes from particular fashion labels. Key scenes take place in well-known coffee stores. The product placement industry has become such a key part of entertainment that the BrandChannel blog issues annual awards for the most imaginative uses. In 2010 it proclaimed Apple the most successful product placement brand, noting that its products featured in ten of the thirty three rightest rating box-office movies in the US that year. The film with the most placements was Iron Man 2, which notched an incredible sixty four. The trend is now coming to Britain. Earlier this year ITV's This Morning struck a deal with Nestlé to publicise its Dolce Gusto coffee-maker. Channel Four is considering deals for Hollyoaks this summer. Not surprisingly some – including Spurlock – have warned that the invasion of corporate interests and advertising is a threat to artistic integrity. 'If there is any idea that the placements are driving the movie, then it is in no one's best interests,' said Professor Herbert Rotfeld, a marketing expert at Auburn University in Alabama. In the US, concerns have been raised about news shows which feature product placement. Cups of coffee from McDonald's are put in front of presenters on some regional stations, raising a potential clash of interests if a negative story involves the hamburger giant. But defenders of product placement point to a long tradition of Hollywood prop teams using certain products simply because it gives an air of reality to the fiction. Rotfeld believes critics of product placement underestimate how savvy viewers are. 'The power of product placement is overblown,' he insists. 'Just because a lot of big companies spend lots of money doing something does not mean it is a good idea or that it works.'

A BBC presentation featuring a lot of chaps tossing around in boats with their cox was a huge success on Saturday. The 2011 Boat Race had an average audience of 4.2m across the two and half hours of BBC1's coverage with a peak audience of an astonishing 7.29m for the climax of the race. Oxford upset the odds to win the one hundred and fifty seventh Boat Race by four lengths over Cambridge with a dominating display on the River Thames. Lighter and less experienced, Oxford nevertheless cruised home in a time of seventeen minutes thirty two seconds.

Sulky Heaton Horror Cheryl Cole has reportedly 'fallen out' with Simon Cowell because of the uncertainty surrounding her job on The X Factor USA. The singer is unhappy that she hasn't 'received more support' from Cowell while trying out for the job and feels he has 'become distant' since doubt was cast on her role, the Daily Lies Sunday reports. And, again, dear blog reader as we noted yesterday the sense of entitlement, of sheer ignorance at anything other than themselves and their shallow little world from these people continues to stagger. 'Why isn't everybody talking about me, me, me, me, me?!' It's sickening. To quote one of the great philosophers of the Twentieth Century, Jack Regan, 'the world doesn't revolve around you, love, it revolves around the sun. This bloke Galileo proved it.' 'Cheryl and Simon are not getting on as well at the moment,' a 'source' allegedly told the newspaper, as though anybody actually gives a damn about such nonsense. 'He's been distant towards her and she feels like he's turned his back on her. They hardly saw each other when she was in LA. Cheryl called him when she arrived back in the UK earlier this week and they had quite a heated conversation. She appreciates all his help but said she felt like she had no support for any of the meetings she had in America. He told her she was blowing everything out of proportion and was being "oversensitive." But Cheryl feels like he could have helped her more. Simon texted her later to tell her to "stop being silly"' which, frankly, is the most sensible bit of advise that Simon Cowell has ever given anyone. 'But she said she couldn't seem to understand why he was being so distant and strange over the past few weeks. Simon previously told her she "had it in the bag" and as soon as it transpired that she didn't, he stopped making as much contact.' Oh, boo-bloody-hoo. Somebody put these people on a helicopter to Northern Japan and drop them in the middle of Fukushima so they can find out what a real newsworthy crisis is all about.

EastEnders was the most successful show in the 2011 All About Soap Bubble Awards, securing three out of the eight available awards. Walford favourites Jessie Wallace and Shane Richie were the big winners as their return to Albert Square was named best comeback of the year, their baby swap storyline with Samantha Womack (Ronnie Branning) was voted best baby drama and Wallace was named best actress for her portrayal of Kat Moon. Speaking of the result, Wallace commented: 'I'm hugely grateful to everyone who voted for me. I'm so pleased and it really means a lot.' Discussing the return of the Moons, Richie added: 'We knew how well-loved Kat and Alfie were before and we wanted to be true to that. So it's fantastic to know the viewers love them as much as we do!' Coronation Street and Emmerdale picked up two awards each. For Corrie, the fiftieth anniversary tram crash disaster was named best stunt' and Michelle Keegan (Tina McIntyre) triumphed in the best celeb style award. Emmerdale's winners were Danny Miller (Aaron Livesy) for the best actor award and Marc Silcock (Jackson Walsh) for best newcomer. Hollyoaks' one prize was for Kieron Richardson, Emmett Scanlan and Alice Barlow who won the best love triangle' award. Soap fans voted in their tens for the awards and the next issue of All About Soap, which goes on sale on Tuesday, will include a special free mini-magazine containing exclusive pictures and interviews with the winners. All About Soap's editor Johnathon Hughes said: 'We're thrilled with the huge response to this year's All About Soap Bubble Awards - it's a chance for soap fans to have their say and we received more votes than ever. The public clearly love having Kat and Alfie back behind the bar of the Queen Vic, and despite the controversy, the baby swap story helped them to win three awards. Corrie's epic tram crash was a hit with readers, and the ongoing stories of Aaron and Jackson in Emmerdale and Ste's fling with Brendan in Hollyoaks also proved popular.'

Prince Harry has reportedly agreed to be filmed by the BBC on a trek to the North Pole with a group of disabled soldiers. The royal, who served on the front line in Afghanistan in 2008, will spend a week with fellow veterans of the Afghan war as they embark upon the two hundred-mile journey. The Prince and the rest of the 'Walking with the Wounded' team, some of whom lost limbs in the war zone, will drag heavy equipment and supplies to the Arctic in an attempt to raise funds for Armed Forces appeals. Harry told the Mirra: 'The Walking with the Wounded North Pole team will undertake an enormous adventure. The funds will, with the public's support, make a life-changing difference to injured servicemen.' The Prince's teammate Captain Martin Hewitt added: 'We aim to demonstrate that you can achieve great things post-injury.' The group are planning to reach the North Pole by the end of April.

Meanwhile on a somewhat related theme, according to the Daily Torygraph, the BBC has agreed to consider taking 'a more sceptical view' of the royal family's finances, after senior executives from the corporation met with representatives of a Republican pressure group which favours the abolition of the monarchy. Helen Boaden, the head of BBC news, and David Jordan, the corporation’s editorial policy chief, met Graham Smith, the campaign chief of Republic, an organisation with the stated aim of ending 'any constitutional role for the royal family.' At the meeting, which took place on Wednesday, Republic called for the monarchy to be recategorised as 'a controversial subject' within the BBC's editorial guidelines, a move that would guarantee strict standards of impartiality. While the BBC executives rejected that demand, Smith said that they had accepted he had given them 'food for thought' about wider issues. 'They indicated that the royal family's finances were one area that could be held in a more critical and sceptical light,' said Smith. 'There was an acknowledgement that there could be some changes. However, we clearly have some way to go. The BBC still mistakenly believes that coverage of the serious constitutional debates around the monarchy can somehow be separated from reporting of the royals as celebrities. But by letting itself be co-opted by the palace PR machine, the BBC is normalising and legitimising what is actually a highly contested political institution.' A BBC spokesman said: 'The BBC will be giving the royal wedding the kind of coverage that a major national event of this sort deserves and we will apply the same rules of impartiality to this story as we would any other. We had a meeting with Republic at their request. We have meetings from time to time to listen to the points of view of others and respond where appropriate. It is not correct to say that the BBC has agreed to change the way it covers the monarchy.' A senior BBC 'insider' allegedly told the newspaper that no commitments to make any change to BBC policy had been made at the meeting. James Edgecombe, of the British Monarchist League, his tongue rammed so far up the royal family's chuff there was simply no room for anyone else to get in there and give it right good lick, reportedly said: 'The BBC should reflect the majority view of the population. A YouGov poll earlier this week found that only 13 per cent of the public now want to get rid of the monarchy.' Yeah. The OBE's in the post, Jimmy.

Well-known faceache - and drag - Arlene Phillips has suggested that she would 'love' to front her own chat show. As, one is sure, would plenty of other people whose sour and miserable faces preclude them from being given such a role. Fortunately, perhaps, no broadcaster seems anywhere near as keen on Ms Phillips abilities in this regard as she, clearly, does herself. Which is somewhat reassuring.

In an exclusive interview coinciding with his first anniversary in the role, Adam Crozier told the Sunday Torygraph that ITV Studios was a main engine of growth for the company but that the operation had been undermined by departures of key personnel over the past few years. 'There are a number of on-screen talents that set up their own production companies because they had lost trust in ITV Studios,' he said. 'We hope to bring some of them back into the fold. Over time we may need to look at some acquisitions.' In the interview, Crozier pulls no punches about the state that he found ITV Studios in. 'It didn't have any creative leadership for five years. ITV stopped investing in it. Gradually the creative talent left. That meant fewer and fewer new ideas.' ITV has recently been linked with a potential bid for All3Media, which makes some of ITV's most popular shows, including Midsomer Murders, The Cube and The Only Way Is Essex, and is run by former ITV executives including Steve Morrison, David Liddiment, Jules Burns and Wayne Garvie. Although RTL chief executive Gerhard Zeiler recently ruled out a sale of another UK superindie, TalkbackThames, 'industry insiders' still speculate, according to the newspaper, that ITV might want to bid for the company – which makes X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, two of ITV’s biggest entertainment hits. However, even after the recent upturn in its fortunes from the advertising recovery, ITV may balk at the likely price tags for a big acquisition and the organisational difficulties involved in merging Talkback into ITV Studios. Attempts to buy another large-scale entertainment production company are likely to be stymied by the fact that many are already owned by large corporate parents – such as Shed, which is part of Time Warner, and Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine, which has agreed a sale to News Corp. More likely targets could include Left Bank Pictures, the drama independent set up by former ITV executive Andy Harries that produces Wallander and Strike Back, and Mammoth Screen, which is also run by former ITV executives in the shape of Michele Buck and Damien Timmer and which makes ITV’s new medical drama Monroe. ITV could also conceivably bid for Gallowgate, the entertainment production company set up by their on-screen talents Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly. Another strategy would be to tempt heavy-hitting former ITV executives – such as Claudia Rosencrantz, who commissioned Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and Twatting About on Ice at ITV, and recently left Virgin Media – back into the company. However, several industry sources said that ITV Studios has made overtures to a number of senior executives over recent months, but has been repeatedly rebuffed.

Academics will study 'The Big Society' as a priority, following a deal with the government to secure funding. The Arts and Humanities Research Council will spend 'a significant' amount of its funding on the prime minister's vision for the country, after a government 'clarification' of the Haldane principle – a convention that for ninety years has protected the right of academics to decide where research funds should be spent. Under the revised principle, research bodies must work to the government's national objectives, although the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that ministers will 'not meddle' in individual projects. Curiously, few people actually believe them. It is claimed the AHRC was told that research into the 'big society' was 'non-negotiable' if it wished to maintain its funding at one hundred million smackers a year. The director of research at Cambridge University's history faculty, Professor Peter Mandler, told the Observer that the AHRC was forced to accept the change by officials working for the minister for higher education, David Two Brains Willetts, regarded as one of the intellectual driving forces behind this moronic 'big society' malarkey. Mandler added: 'The government says they have rewritten the Haldane principle but they have junked it, basically. They say it is now their right to set the priorities for how this funding [is] distributed. They have got the AHRC over a barrel and basically told these guys that they cannot have their money unless they incorporate [these] research priorities. Willetts was negotiating nominally, but the word is that it has come down from the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, Vince Cable. Almost everyone who hears the story is upset about it. What about curiosity research, blue sky thinking? What is worrying is what won't be researched because of this.' There is growing anger at what the Royal Historical Society described as 'a gross and ignoble' move to assert government control over research in favour of what one academic labelled 'a party political slogan.' Professor Colin Jones, president of the RHS, said the move was 'potentially dangerous' for the future of academic study in the country. 'It seems to me to be absolutely gross,' said Jones. 'In a way, the AHRC should be congratulated for securing a good settlement in a difficult spending round, but there is something slightly ignoble about making the "big society" a research priority.' He added: 'It is government money. They have the right to spend it on what they want, but there is a degree of anxiety about the strings being put on. They are being strengthened, which could be dangerous for independent research.' A principal at an Oxford college, who did not want to be named, told the newspaper: 'With breathtaking speed, a slogan for one political party has become translated into a central intellectual agenda for the academy.' Labour MP and historian Tristram Hunt said he intended to raise the issue in parliament, describing the research priorities as 'grotesque.' He added: 'It is disgraceful that taxpayers' money is being spent on this bogus idea.' It is understood that Oxford University intends to discuss the imposition of 'big society' research at the next meeting of its sovereign body, the Oxford congregation, in May. Gareth Thomas, the shadow minister for higher education, condemned the development and called for transparency from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. He said: 'Vince Cable and David Willetts need to explain why he has allowed an ill-thought-out, half-formed Tory election idea to divert precious funding away from genuine research. When the government is axing virtually all the funding for the teaching of humanities, social sciences and the arts, wasting critical research monies on the "big society" is simply unacceptable.' Last month, the prime minister rejected criticisms of the 'big society' and said that the idea was his 'driving force.' He added: 'We do need a social recovery to mend the broken society and to me, that's what the big society is all about.' One of the tasks of research, according to the AHRC's delivery plan, will be to define 'difficult to pin down' values in 'recent speeches on the big society,' such as 'fairness, engagement, responsibility, mutuality, individualism [and] selfishness.' A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spoksman insisted that the AHRC itself had proposed the 'big society' as a strategic priority. 'Prioritisation of an individual research council's spending within its allocation is not a decision for ministers,' she claimed. 'The government supports [the Haldane] principle as vital for the protection of academic indpendence and excellence.'

Michael Sheen is the latest actor to be linked to a role in Tim Burton's new film project Dark Shadows. According to The Playlist, the Frost/Nixon actor is currently 'in talks' for an unknown role in the film, having already worked with Burton on last year's Alice In Wonderland. If cast, Sheen would join fellow Burton alumni Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Michelle Pfeiffer, as well as the likes of Eva Green and Jackie Earle Haley. Dark Shadows is an adaptation of the long-running Gothic 1960s soap opera, and will tell the story of a vampire named Barnabas Collins who begins the search to find his long-lost love. It was recently confirmed that Sheen will voice a character in an upcoming episode of Doctor Who.

David Letterman, Louis CK and Tina Fey were among the winners at the first annual US Comedy Awards. Chat show host Letterman scooped the prize for comedic excellence at the event, staged by Comedy Central on Saturday night. The award is named in honour of former talk-show legend Johnny Carson – ironically the person Letterman's rival Jay Leno took over from on The Tonight Show. Elsewhere, sitcom Modern Family was named best series while 30 Rock's Alec Baldwin and Saturday Night Live's Kristen Wiig picked up awards the TV acting awards. In the movie acting category, Baldwin's 30 Rock co-star Tina Fey shard the honours with Zach Galifianakis for Date Night and Dinner for Schmucks respectively. The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg and Steve Coogan was named best film. South Park picked up the honours for best animated series while Toy Story 3 won the animated film category. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart won best late-night comedy series.

Census organisers are urging twenty six million households in England and Wales not to forget to fill in their questionnaires. Forms should be filled in on Sunday - Census Day - or as soon as possible afterwards, the Office for National Statistics said. Electronic tracking systems are being used to monitor who has filled in the forms with collectors knocking on doors from 6 April where households have not yet returned their questionnaires. The ONS said help and advice would be offered to people having difficulty filling in the form and collectors would also supply replacement questionnaires where forms have been lost or damaged. Glen Watson, 2011 Census director said: 'Completing the census form promptly and sending it back to us means no one will have to knock on your door to remind you. Census statistics enable the authorities in England and Wales to plan properly for the future for school places, housing, roads, emergency services and a host of other local services.' Householders are being asked a range of questions covering areas such as national identity, ethnic group, educational qualifications, job titles, travel-to-work method and state of health. The census also includes questions for the first time on civil partnerships, second homes and recent migration. People born outside the UK are being asked when they most recently arrived in the country, with those who arrived in the past year asked how long they intend to stay. There is also a question asking people whether English is their main language and how well they can speak it. There are no questions on income, sexual orientation or nature of disability. Organisers said the information from the once-a-decade exercise will be used by health authorities, councils and a range of other bodies to plan services.

The lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt has called for 'a quick end' to the row over funding for the 2012 Olympics. The British Olympic Association wants a bigger cut from the organising committee, Locog, of any surplus. It is taking the dispute to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 'This is not the right argument to be having so close to the Olympics in our country,' the vile and odious rascal Hunt told BBC Radio 5Live's Sportsweek. 'I think it is an extraordinary thing that just over a year before the Games that we are going into this sort of dispute, which frankly is not going to benefit anyone. We need to sort it out quickly, it is just very disappointing and I do not think anyone would say it is the right way to be focusing our energies.' The dispute centres on whether the BOA is entitled to a share of the surplus from the Olympics alone, or the Games and Paralympics combined. It is a crucial distinction because the Paralympics, which also take place in London next year, will need to be subsidised, whereas the Olympics is likely to make a profit. The International Olympic Committee has already ruled that the two Games are tied together. And Locog said in a statement earlier in March that it believes both events must be treated as one financially. 'The vision for London 2012, created by the BOA, Government and the Mayor of London and set out in the bid book is for one festival of sport, with an integrated Olympic and Paralympic Games, underpinned by a single budget,' said the Locog statement. The BOA will support about five hundred and fifty athletes and four hundred and fifty support staff in London, providing training advice, medical assistance and a holding camp. 'The BOA is fantastically important to the success of 2012,' added the vile and odious rascal Hunt. 'It is a massive logistical operation and everyone in that organisation needs to be focused on that challenge.' The cost to the BOA of funding the GB team is expected to be in the region of five million smackers, but there is believed to be a shortfall. If CAS rules in favour of the BOA then either Locog will need to generate further funding or the money will need to be shifted from a wider sport budget. 'I can't really see how anyone's going to be a winner from this because there is no more money,' the vile and odious rascal Hunt stated. 'Sport got a very good settlement in the comprehensive spending review. No one's going to be able to go back to the Treasury and ask for more money so even if the BOA win, the money's going to have to come out of another part of the sports budget or the Olympics budget.' BOA chairman Lord Moynihan and chief executive Andy Hunt (no relation to the vile and odious rascal) were last week suspended from the board of Locog. The action was taken because of a conflict of interest and neither Lord Moynihan nor Hunt (no relation to the vile and odious rascal) attended a meeting of the board on Thursday. The BOA has been invited to nominate replacements until the case is resolved.

More than two hundred writers, artists and supporters of Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre have signed a letter expressing concerns about its future use. Doctor Who writer Russell Davies, singer Cerys Matthews and Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy are among the names calling for it to be run by a trust. Swansea council is looking lease the centre to the city's universities to open a 'creative industries hub.' It said the centre would not close and the permanent exhibition would remain. The letter states since the centre was opened seventeen years ago by former US president Jimmy Carter it had delivered a programme of literary and artistic events 'unparalleled for its variety and excellence by any other arts venue in the United Kingdom.' It adds: 'The centre has celebrated the literary arts of Wales, in addition to music, drama and the visual arts, and has attracted to Swansea a panoply of internationally renowned writers who, returning home, have burnished the renown of Swansea and Wales in all parts of the world.' The signatories, who also include Hollywood actor Michael Sheen, theatre director Michael Bogdanov and Thomas's son Colm, say that with the one hundredth anniversary of the poet's birth in 2014 a trust would be the best way to safeguard its future. 'Plans are currently being laid, locally and nationally, for celebrations of the one hundredth anniversary,' they added. 'The city is surely going to look a little bizarre, to put it mildly, in the eyes of the wider world if it is seen to have abandoned the Dylan Thomas Centre on the eve of this major national and international celebration.' Last year Swansea council and universities revealed plans to transform the centre into a 'cultural and enterprise hub' for creative industries. Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. But in response to the letter the council said it was 'making serious and significant preparations' for the anniversary with the Welsh Assembly Government and other partners. 'The Dylan Thomas Centre is not threatened with closure,' said a spokesman. 'A joint venture alongside the University of Wales will allow us to secure its future during these difficult economic times when finance is limited. We are working very closely with our partners to make sure that the Dylan Thomas exhibition is refreshed and improved. The current proposal is that the exhibition will remain at the centre permanently although we are jointly working with the University of Wales on the fine detail. The spokesman added that the centenary of Dylan Thomas' birth was a 'fantastic opportunity for Swansea to celebrate his life and works. The enhanced exhibition is among a series of initiatives being planned to ensure we promote Dylan Thomas and Swansea to a world-wide audience in 2014.'

The Rustock botnet, which sent up to thirty billion spam messages per day, may have been run by just two or three people. Early analysis, following raids to knock out the spam network, suggest that it was the work of a very small team. Rustock was made up of about one million hijacked PCs and employed a series of tricks to hide itself from scrutiny for years. Since the raids on the network's hardware, global spam levels have dropped and remain relatively low. 'It does not look like there were more than a couple of people running it to me,' said Alex Lanstein, a senior engineer at security firm FireEye, which helped with the investigation into Rustock. Lanstein based his appraisal on familiarity with Rustock gained while working to shut it down over the past few years. He told BBC News that the character of the code inside the Rustock malware and the way the giant network was run suggested that it was operated by a small team. That work by FireEye, Microsoft, Pfizer and others culminated on 16 March with simultaneous raids on data centres in seven US cities that seized ninety six servers which had acted as the command and control system for Rustock. Lanstein added that hard drives from the servers had been handed over to a forensic firm which will 'scour them for clues' as to the identity of the network's controllers. His hunch that a small team was behind Rustock is partly based on how different it was to other spam networks such as Zeus. That network, said Lanstein, operates on a franchise basis and involves many different groups and cyber criminals. By contrast, Rustock was a tightly controlled, if huge, network that brought with it many of the administration headaches suffered by any web-based business. 'They ran into a lot of problems with managing their assets and pushing updates out to a million user network,' he said. Rustock evaded capture for years because of the clever way it was controlled. Victims were snared when they visited websites seeded with booby-trapped adverts and links. Once PCs were compromised, updates were regularly pushed out to them using custom written encryption. Those downloads contained the spam engine that despatched billions of adverts for fake pharmaceuticals. Updates to PCs in Rustock were also disguised to look like comments in discussion boards, making them hard to spot by security software which typically looks for well-known signs of malware. The servers controlling Rustock were also located within hosting centres in the US rather than overseas. 'By locating all the C&C servers in middle-America, not in major metropolitan areas, they were able to stay off the radar,' said Lanstein. Hosting costs for the C&C systems ran to about ten thousand dollars per month, he said. It was hard to estimate how much money the operators of Rustock had made, said Lanstein, but it was likely to be a huge figure. Since the raids, Rustock's controllers do not seem to have tried to re-assert control of their creation. Technical steps taken by Microsoft could limit any future attempt, said Lanstein, adding that he was not sure they would even try. 'When you are a programmer and you realise that you have the full force of the Microsoft legal department pointed directly at you, then you might say to yourself its time to try something else,' he added.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day. Once upon a time, they crawled from the south onto an unsuspecting world. And, whilst it's true that they haven't made a record worthy of getting yer Keith Telly Topping even remotely interested since 1995, the fact remains that for a decade, R.E.M were something pretty damn special. Here's four of yer Keith Telly Topping's favourites from Michael, Peter, Mike and Bill. Starting with the best record they ever made and some fantastic memories of them playing it to an audience of about two hundred at Tiffany's in Newcastle in 1983. When they looked a bit like this. Quality haircut, Michael! I think it was Elvis Costello who once noted that he prefered R.E.M. when Michael Stipe was singing lyrics that weren't, recognisably, English! I kind of knows what he means, those first three or four LPs are extraordinary. There was a point, in the mid-80s, where they were selling more records in Britain than they were in the US (bascially, because they hadn't really broken out of Georiga at that stage). And they were releasing singles like this. Sooner or later, of course, the rest of the world caught on to them. They started having hits, Peter got fat(!) but they remained brilliant. Their final gasp of greatest came just before Bill had to leave. The most perfect evocation of Los Angeles ever committed to vinyl. And, one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite songs, by anyone. Let's finish with the songs that they opened that show at Tiffanys. And, how they closed it. Never forgotten.