Friday, October 29, 2010

George and the time travelling tranny.

This morning the internet seems awash with news of footage found that appears to show a woman using a mobile phone in 1928. The footage allegedly comes from DVD extras of the Charlie Chaplin film The Circus and was "discovered" by independent filmmaker George Clarke who also happens to be promoting an upcoming film festival and a new film.

After "discovering" the footage by watching the DVD extras from a Charlie Chaplin boxset George was stunned by what he saw and the "only conclusion" he could come to was that the footage clearly showed a time travelling woman, or possibly a man in drag, talking on a mobile phone in 1928. This was "the only conclusion" he could come to. 

Before reaching the conclusion that the woman, sorry transvestite, is talking on a mobile phone George dismisses a few theories of what the woman could be holding, the best bit being when he concludes that she couldn't be holding an AM/FM radio because "obviously it's 1928." Brilliant! George, you are a comic genius and your marketing skills are perfect for this modern information drenched age.

The video has enjoyed a massive 1.5million hits in 10 days and now it's featured on almost every major and minor news outlets websites, nearly all with George’s production companies logo flashing up before and after the footage and the poster for their latest film in the background. All the while George manages to keep a straight face whilst describing such gems as how the woman is too butch to be a woman and how scary it is when they look at the camera.

The most shocking thing about this whole thing is not the time travelling aspect, which can easily be dismissed by a thousand explanations more plausible than a time travelling transvestite, but the fact that news organisations are willing to report internet phenomena as if they are real news items. I don't recall ever sitting through the Ten O'clock news as a kid only for Moira Stewart to announce that Wham bars were really popular amongst kids or that Babycham had taken off as a drink for the nouveau riche. The news should not be a place to publicise people’s products or views unless they are affecting others lives.

A majority of the stories on this video don’t even bother to offer an explanation but rely on George’s commentary and youtube comments to bulk up the excuse to publicise the video. This isn’t journalism but the lazy copy and pasting that has become so common place amongst even the once reputable rags. And whilst this may seem to be a small story it’s the principle that news organisations are willing to treat it like a story at all that is worrying. Without discussing the video with any experts, researching George, his company or the Charlie Chaplin film themselves they swallow it and yack it back out onto their page. Which begs the questions; When did it become acceptable for journalists to stop doing research? When did it become acceptable for news organisations to assist in the marketing campaigns of third party companies? Both of these questions are connected as I’m not suggesting they openly co-operated with Yellow Fever (George’s film production company) but by not researching or even stopping for a moment to think before they printed the story they tacitly consented to having marketing material in their paper.

This example of PR acting as news is a small and relatively harmless one but the trend by news agencies towards publicises this sort of thing and therefore giving an air of authority is a worrying one.

So why do I feel justified posting it here? Firstly, this is not a news source but a blog and therefore the spiritual home for crap like this. Secondly, it's an amusing a light hearted way to make a serious point as George's musings are funny in their absurdity. Thirdly, it adds context to the rubbish I've written above and fourthly, I'm happy to support independent filmmakers and their quest to publicise their low budget movies, especially if they have zombies in them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Art in the Dark, Western Park, Ponsonby

15th - 16th October 2001

Over two mild evenings in October, Western Park in Ponsonby was transformed into an art installation. Over 20 artists were willing to leave their precious works exposed to the elements and the public for the entire weekend. No barriers, no frames and often little or no illumination gave the exhibition an element of trust and community you don't often find at art events. Here's some, but by no means all, of the art of display.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Review: Voodoo Histories: How conspiracy theory has shaped modern history by David Aaronovich

If you think that conspiracy theories are merely the result of the internet’s unchecked free flow of information then this book will correct that view. From before the forging of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion up to the present obsession with Obama's birthplace conspiracies have been floating around the fringes of society for centuries. Here, David Aaronovich takes us through the history of some of the largest conspiracy theories from JFK to 9/11, and shows us how they have come to feed off each other, and the catastrophic affects they can have on the peace and security of the world.

If you’re fed up with pub bores and internet trolls preaching half truths and misguided nonsense and you need a little ammunition to fight the war on bullshit then this is not a bad place to start. Readable, witty and informative. Aaronovich has researched the backgrounds of many conspiracy theorists and their theories to shed some light and historical context on them. Whilst he doesn’t sift through every detail of every theory disproving them one by one he does apply philosophical tools such as Occam’s razor and a large dollop of commonsense to explain the implausibility, and sometimes impossibility of many of the theories.