Friday, 24 October 2008

WordPress switchover

Shona Ghosh's blog is now here

Friday, 19 September 2008

Industry confessionals

I thought I would charter my wobbling progress in the ‘sharky'* industry which is local journalism. It has got off to an unpromising start.

Despite having to pay City University £9000 of my father’s pension and another £8000 of rent to a Haringay landlord, I must go and work for some local newspapers. For free. I will then eventually qualify to enter City. Then I will achieve the £17,000 MA which will lead to a £12,000 job. Righto.

Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press are the two major local newspaper stables and have maintained an embarrassingly high profile over the last six months. Local print journalism has taken a massive blow to the financial broadside since the property market began its downward spiral, for a very simple reason - advertising.

Papers were once graced by a rich crop of property advertising which, since the housing market downturn, has become a thinning scalp. As the advertising funds tighten, so do newspaper company belts and hacks are forced to work extra long shifts to cover work left by gaps in the workforce. If a reporter leaves, it is more than likely he will not be replaced, and his work is quietly absorbed by the grumbling colleagues who remain. This is bad news for everyone; the quality of journalism (already questionable) goes down and hopeful graduates don’t get the jobs which overworked reporters don’t really want to be doing in the first place.

However, in our attempts to ingratiate ourselves into this loveless industry, we prostitute ourselves on a weekly basis at some middle-of-the-road regional. I begin my first placement in a bad temper - an entire summer of work experience means I have no cash to see my friends, buy any smart work clothes or learn to drive. In fact I can’t really afford to do this placement at all, but this is a problem overlooked by generations of the public schoolboys who call the shots. Polly Toynbee can call herself a social champion when she makes work experience illegal under the Slavery Abolition Act. Until then, she can shut up.

* Mary “Darey” Bishop, Bordon Post. See next entry for further info.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Leam Courier's In praise of....public benches

It is a truth universally unacknowledged that there is nowhere to sit down in England.

Outside, at any rate. You don’t want to pay that extra 60p for lunchtime coffee just to ‘eat in’. You’re effectively paying a very small amount of rent for that piece of MDF posing as a chair. No, you declare, summoning up some good, solid British jingoism before flouncing outside.

Whereupon you find yourself overwhelmingly presented with the problem of the modern human condition. So obsessed are we by commerce, shop fronts and efficient use of municipal space that you are now presented with nowhere put aside merely to sit.

Except lo and behold – there in Jephson Gardens lies the humble wooden bench. No rent fee necessary and scarred with ‘ROSIE 4EVA’, it even inspired landscape artist Charles Neal.

On bearing the inscription ‘For Doris’ beckons like a warm hug. Thanking Doris under your breath, you finally find somewhere to enjoy your now lukewarm coffee before the heavens open to quench that British jingoism once and for all.

There’s always some sheltered pavement just round the corner but despite this being public property you will invariably be moved on by the police. Unless of course you construct some kind of purpose-made board explaining your dilemma, while holding out your coffee cup to collect that all-important 60p.


Thursday, 14 August 2008

Leam Courier - Gen Y

There are some fashionable buzzwords being bandied about by the press this week. Leading the league table of overused phrases is ‘narcissism’, usually in reference to Barack Obama’s image heavy presidential campaign. Outdoing even Narcissus, not only does he coo over his own reflection, but inflicts it on the global public.

As Big Brother has sadly demonstrated, self-obsession is no longer a celebrity attribute. We all want a slice, and no one does vanity quite so well as the British teenager.

Which brings me to buzzword number two, ‘Generation Y’. The cohort of Generation Y spent an angst-ridden, spotty youth communicating its woes through the Nokia 3210 (remember that?) and MSN Messenger. Ten years later, it is extremely internet-savvy and responsible for a complete revamp of what is considered to be alternative culture.

They are the teenagers and 20-somethings who spend hours on social networking sites, feeding an appetite hungry for online entertainment and stimulation. A prime example of a Gen Y whiz kid is Mark Zuckerberg, the 24-year-old CEO of Facebook.

Here users can post photographs, artwork, manipulated images and whatever else they want others to see. A consequence of this is the ‘MySpace photo’ – you know, a bunch of teenage girls holding out a camera at arm’s length while pouting into the lens. If deemed acceptable, this photograph will find its way online, possibly in flattering black and white. There it will scream, “We are having fun! Look! So much fun!” to envious friends who will go out and do precisely the same thing.

This is simply one example of how we choose to present images of ourselves – only partially reflective of our true appearances and entirely manipulated to our own agendas. Through text and photos, life is reflected as Generation Y wants it. Technology has enabled us to change not only the image, but the mirror itself.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Warwick Shootout - "Watch"

In the last week of term (ever!) at Warwick, I along with some mates from RaW entered the Shootout film-making competition. Two very nasty conditions of the competition are in-camera editing (i.e. no shuffling of scenes on a computer) and having 24 hours to make the 4-minute film. 28 teams entered; The Rats' Nest consisted of myself, Ben Worsfield, Will Thomas, Charlie Fuller and Matt Rebeiro.

Due to a mixture of creativity, stubbornness and, frankly, distilled genius we won Best Performer (Will), Best Direction and Best Film.


video

Sunday, 2 March 2008

ITS - Immuno Technologically Shitty syndrome

Warwick loves to represent itself as one cohesive whole. It has smug little banners as you drive in. The campus is encapsulated within the bounds of University Road. Big Nige invites you to breakfast to allow students to give him feedback. There’s even a book about Warwick PLC – we’ve all heard the student spiel about the vast, corporate machine. Except that this cohesion is porkier than the animated pig. Everywhere you look, campus is in fact a Sellotaped machine of cogs. Lecturers, I have generally found, refuse to be cogs. From the snide, throwaway remark about the infantilism of seminar registers to a downright refusal to follow standard marking schemes, academics will always be stubborn bastards. Hurray.

Now this is where the bitch comes. A streaming deluge of vitriol and frustration, poured liberally over one particularly cogged and clogged machine. ITS. May they be disembowelled and hung on the ‘Welcome to Warwick’ poles. It has to be said, Res Net is vastly improved from my arrival in 2005. It took them a couple of years to wise up on the big download clients like SoulSeek, LimeWire and BitTorrent, but they got there eventually. Hey look - they even know what 4OD is! Now last time a fellow journalist bitched about one tentacle of the Warwick octopus, he was summoned to the department in question and got a smacked botty. It’s discourteous to complain through a student newspaper apparently. The correct approach is of course to complain to the department itself.

This poses a slight problem with ITS. While the residential network is buffing its nails and ignoring your frantic attempts to access JSTOR, you are of course incapable accessing customerservices@warwick.ac.uk. By the time service is restored (the February record is 48 hours, with a hitch in Monday’s service of…oh, 3 hours and counting), all that seething anger which you could channel into such beautifully vituperative eloquence has completely died. You’re just thankful to have Facebook again. With a righteous indignation only topped by Christian saints, I constructed an e-mail of (fairly) polite complaint. After a fortnight’s gap, I got a thinly veiled middle-finger from their ‘customer services’ desk. ‘Resolution,’ it said in tones of injured pride, ‘was not as expedient as we had wished’.

Well that’s one thing you got right.

I feel sorry for them sometimes. Their mission statement, to which I’m inclined to give about as much credence as Thomas’ lost Gospel, is simply to give us students the Internet. And the most efficient way to do this is to stop us downloading the next series of Lost. Fair play. What they’ve failed to take into consideration is Warwick’s inherent geekiness. If the odd theatre student can come equipped with a sound knowledge of html, then my God, what are the computer scientists capable of? So they ban one thing, and the Geek Army C++ their way out of it. And down comes Res Net. According to a polite lady in Reception, ITS don’t work on weekends. I thought it an embarrassing misconception on her part not to realise that they don’t work on weekdays either. Poor lady, what did she know.

I am an honest citizen. I have never downloaded at Warwick, though I did manage to stop Res Net for a day without even knowing about it. But that’s a story for another day. Like discovering a faithless lover, I don’t even know what to fume most about. Is it the wasted time and money on an unfulfilling service? Or is it the overwhelming sense of dishonesty, the lack of prior warning? I resort to the inferior services of the library or (grurgh) the student computer room. Such a grey, soulless experience. All I can do is write another twisted love letter, to vent my bitter feelings. ‘Dear ITS, I would like to lodge a complaint’. There. That told you.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Disproportional representation

So the elections are over. Do you care? Did you even vote?

No. Of course you didn’t. I know this, because the voting figures comprised under 15% of the university’s student body. And that minuscule percentage will consist of the candidates, their pets, and that bloke they met at the pub. A few members of the media societies perhaps who have yet to drown in their own hypocrisy.


Voter apathy is a bad habit at so young an age. This being an exceptionally middle-class university, disdain at proletarian ignorance during the general elections usually results in ‘Well...it’s probably a good thing half the population don’t vote. They wouldn’t even know what they’re voting for.’ The SU aren’t quite as cack-handed as the Blair government, but it might be if you don’t tell it what to do. You’re not ‘the population’; you’re in the top 5% of intelligent people in this country. Unless you go to Score.


I covered the elections night on Saturday for RaW. People who asked me about it were generally impressed at the fact that the winning candidate (Stuart ‘Tommo’ Thomas) obtained almost double the votes than rival Peter Ptashko. I told them to fuck off. 1712 votes made Tommo’s victory. That's not an impressive feat. There are approximately 20,000 union members and about 12% of you voted. 1712 people do not represent the Warwick student body; therefore neither does Tommo. I’m not questioning the legitimacy of his win. He is indisputably the Union President, and if you don’t like it, then it’s your own fault. How can Stuart Thomas possibly claim to represent the student body when barely any of them bothered to check out and question his policies? What are his views on No Platform vs. free speech? What is he really going to do about the Union rebuild?


There were some interesting claims in the manifestos which needed serious grilling from the students to ascertain their veracity. How exactly did James Berragan intend to overrule the University and encourage such publications as the Sanctuary? How did Peter Ptashko finally pull off a lecture-free Freshers’ Week? Did Peter Thomas actually have any policies of his own or was he just a Tory Party bitch? Frankly I found all of the presidential candidates an unprepossessing bunch and voted for persistent underdog R.O.N. Although I voted for Woolley second, solely because it was nice to come across something resembling a sense of humour. ‘Nuts about Students’ didn’t quite cut it for me.


Elections intrigues are actually quite interesting, if you look into them. For example, a certain member of the democracy committee is allegedly under investigation for mouthing off about the rivals of a wannabe Sports Officer. Who is, incidentally, her boyfriend. Meanwhile, it’s likely that Tommo garnered a good proportion of his votes from Warwick Snow Society, of which he happens to be President. Warwick Snow isn’t the only society to attempt to monopolise the elections campaigns; there are also candidate clusters from RAG and of course the Tories. RAG, it appears, has won the day showing the Warwick students apparently prize altruism. Or they may just be familiar with new Societies Officer Lucy Reynolds as she chairs the RAG quiz every Sunday. Another wannabe Sports Officer claimed to have founded a club, but failed to mention that he was voted off the exec by his own team. And so on and so forth.


I have, at best, an ambiguous relationship with the SU. I don’t like how soft drinks cost as much as alcohol on a night out. I dislike its insistent monopolisation of student creativity (i.e. a vicious dislike of the Sanctuary). I think that flirt! was a really, REALLY bad idea. I don’t quite understand why it has a pro-life stance. But I do realise that anyone who dislikes any aspect of the SU should probably make things change by voting. This isn’t the general election, and actually, your vote does make a difference.
Get involved. Come on....propose a motion to get rid of Score at the next Union Council meeting. You know you want to. No? Bugger...