Monday, 30 May 2011

No guarantee of success in America

A tough week for the 'people's princess' Cheryl Cole.

A public humiliation for the singer following her sacking from the US version of X Factor.I'm not denying it isn't a personal setback for her, but there was no guarantee she was going to be a household star in the US in the same way that she is here in the UK.

Cole is just the latest in a long line of British singers, bands, actors and comedians who have tried their luck in America.

Some achieve unlikely success - others who you assume will become major stars end up failing miserably. You just can't predict who's going to make it.

What made things more difficult for Cole is that nobody knows who she is in America. Simon Cowell was always taking a risk by putting her forward to be a judge for X Factor.

Secondly there’s the issue of the accent. It’s easy to mock Americans and say they’re stupid because they don’t understand our accents. The truth is we may know a lot about them, they however know very little about us.

If you’re living in Middle America, a some small town in Missouri or Ohio where are you ever going to hear a Geordie accent? Or any other British regional accent for that matter? They do find it difficult to understand us, as I found out with my Brummie accent when I visited Chicago.

Finally, there’s Cole’s back-story that’s contributed to her popularity in this country doesn’t automatically translate to America.

The working class girl from a rough estate in Newcastle who’s battled against the odds; become a member of the biggest girl band in the country and married a star footballer won’t mean anything to your average American. As an artist or personality she’s starting from scratch.

We’ll have to see if Cole will be back as judge for the our X Factor, there isn’t much time for a decision to made. As for breaking America, she isn’t the first and won’t be the last British star to come back with their tail between their legs.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Champions League Final: Barcelona 3 Manchester Utd 1

What a privilege it was watching last night's Champions League Final.

Barcelona produced one of the best performances I've ever seen from a side in a Champions League Final.

Earlier this season I watched Barcelona humiliate Real Madrid 5-0 at the Nou Camp. I thought that performance was possibly the best I'd seen from a club side in my lifetime.

Last night they were equally as good, and you could say it was a better performance due to the occasion and what was at stake.

The worst thing for Man Utd was that the 3-1 scoreline flattered them. They were made to look ordinary and if Barca had scored 4 or 5 you couldn't say it wasn't deserved.

So the big question everyone is asking is this: Are Barcelona the greatest club side ever?

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El Clasico: Barcelona 5 Real Madrid 0

I've been watching football since the mid 1980s, you'd expect to see some great teams in that period.

The one team that's always stood out for me above others was the great Milan side of the late 1980s early 90s. The team of Gullit, Van Basten, Rikjaard, Baresi, and Maldini.

If you ever get the chance you should check out the highlights of the 1994 Champions League Final where they destroyed a very good Barcelona side 4-0. Last night's game reminded of that.

That Milan team are the only side I can think of that comes close to this Barcelona team. However, I do think this Barca team has the chance of dominating European football for years to come - in a way that no team has been able to do for a generation.

Older football fans talk about the great Dutch side of the 70s, the Brazil team of 1970, the Real Madrid side from the last 1950s. I know all about those teams, but it's so hard to start comparing teams and players from different eras.

What I do know is that this Barcelona side is one of the greats. It's not just the way they keep and dominate possession, but it's the speed in which they do it.

All the players have huge confidence and trust in their ability and that of their team mates. They never change their philosophy and when they don't have the ball they work incredibly hard to press the opposition and win the ball back, a sign of a great work ethic.

The team is made up of players that are mainly home grown something which is unique, they have spent big money but they've produced their own stars.

Finally, they have the world's greatest player in Lionel Messi. He really is a phenomenon. The greatest ever? That's a discussion in itself. He's the best player I've seen since Maradona.

A commonly known fact is that in the Champions League era no team has ever won back to back titles. I'm pretty confident that this time next year I'll be writing about Barcelona being the first team to do so.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Finally we all know it's Ryan Giggs

After weeks of knowing, I can finally write on my blog that Ryan Giggs is the footballer at the centre of the privacy super-injunction story.

Talk about a story that refuses to go away. It’s about time his name was revealed, its been dragging on for too long, it was getting ridiculous.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been telling people I heard it was Ryan Giggs, and at the same time other people were telling me the same thing. The injunction was essentially becoming irrelevant.

What I’ve found fascinating about this story is seeing how the law is struggling to keep pace with a changing media landscape and the rise of social media.

Thousands of people were happy to name Giggs on Twitter and break the injunction. It’s gossip that’s taking place in the public domain. There’s not much a super injunction can do about it.

I have to say I like it – it’s quite anarchic.

Related blogs

Nothing Super about super - injunctions

I’ve got nothing against Ryan Giggs, I do have a great deal of respect for him. He’s been an exceptional player and professional for 20 years, but he’s made a mistake with this injunction.

There are so many issues that this story raises, one of those being that although the traditional media were prevented form reporting the name of Ryan Giggs, his name was being mentioned all over twitter.

10 years ago, people would have been talking about Giggs in the office, down the pub, or in the privacy of their homes. But now in the age of social media, this private gossip is now being played out in the public domain.

If thousands of people are all breaking an injunction is the law going to prosecute all of those people. How do you prosecute gossip?

I was tempted to mention Giggs’ name on my blog a few weeks ago, but having had training in media law I thought better of it. I understand that I can’t just publish and say anything I want on my blog.

The problem that the law has with social media is that thousands of people out there have no knowledge of interest in the legal consequences of publishing their thoughts on social networks. I don’t know how lawyers would be able to act against so many people.

Now today I’ve read in the London Evening Standard that four celebrities who mentioned Giggs’ name on twitter could face legal action. The Four are Piers Morgan, Dom Joly, Toby Young and DJ Boy George.

Why should they face legal action? Is it just because they’re famous and they can be legally identified?

This story is going to run and run. It’s amazing to think that what would appear to be just another footballer ‘kiss and tell’ story, is now potentially going to be a landmark case in relation to our privacy laws and the ways of media can report on the rich and famous.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Why do we love conspiracies?

As soon as the world discovered that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, the conspiracy theories began to emerge immediately.

How did we know he was really dead? Where was the evidence? How convenient that the Americans buried Bin Laden out at sea.

America’s response was that they didn’t want to release pictures of Bin Laden’s dead body as the pictures were too gruesome and could antagonise Bin Laden sympathisers. American officials also didn’t want his body being buried somewhere, which could later become a shrine. For the conspiracy theorists this only raised more questions?

This got me thinking about some of the other famous conspiracy theories that exist such as:

  • Who killed JFK?
  • Who killed Martin Luther King?
  • Did the American moon landing really happen?
  • 9/11 – Did the US government order the destruction of the World Trade Centre?
  • The Birther movement – Was President Obama really born in the United States
  • Was Princess Di murdered?

  • The thing is, there’s never been any real evidence to prove without doubt that there was a conspiracy for any of these events.
    Why is it that whenever there’s a major event that’s seems so shocking or incredible, people immediately start believing there must be a conspiracy behind it.

    You may have noticed that almost all the conspiracies I’ve mentioned are American. It seems Americans love their conspiracies more than others.

    I read a theory suggesting it’s because Americans have a natural distrust of their government and state authority. It goes back to when the country was formed fighting a war of independence against the centralized control of Britain and the rule of King George III.

    Ever since then, Americans have always had a deep mistrust of government power and influence, which leads onto the idea of governments operating in secret away from the public gaze.

    Conspiracy theories don’t just flourish in America though – in many countries under dictatorship or heavy state control people believe more in conspiracies as they feel they don’t have much freedom or influence on how their own governments may act. In that type of environment people naturally begin to assume that state powers are working in secret, covering things up, working against the public interest.

    Another theory I was reading about, argued that when something incredible happens such as the death of JFK we struggle to accept the logical or straightforward explanation. It’s as if there has to be more to the story then the simple facts that have been presented to us.

    My favourite conspiracy theory is who shot JFK. Having always had a fascination for organised crime, I’ve always wanted to believe that the Mafia where somehow involved with the killing.

    Despite this, the evidence still suggests that the only killer was Lee Harvey Oswald. although I accept this, I’m almost disappointed that the Mob weren’t involved somehow, along with the CIA. But then I suppose my feelings support the fact that because the assassination of JFK was so shocking and unbelievable, you think there has to be more to it than just one crazed lone gunman.

    For Islamic extremists and enemies of America, it must be hard to accept that after all these years the Americans have finally got their man. Despite what some people might say, it’s a huge blow to Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism. What better way then to try and undermine or deny America’s claims by starting a conspiracy theory.

    Saturday, 7 May 2011

    This week's elections

    Reading my twitter feed yesterday, Krishnan Guru Murthy from Channel Four News tweeted:

    "News in 1 tweet: great for snp, good for tories, not good for labour, v bad for lib dems"

    He summed things up pretty well, but here are my thoughts in a little more detail.

    Lib Dems take a bashing

    I’m beginning to feel a bit sorry for the Lib Dems. All those years of building up a local political base in towns and cities across the north, wiped out in a flash.

    It’s like watching a boxer who’s on the ropes. They’re being battered by a barrage of punches - you just want the trainer to throw the towel in and put them out their misery.

    Unfortunately for the Lib Dems I think the misery may continue for the next few years.

    It looks like the Lib Dems are being punished by voters for helping to prop up the Tories. If they hadn't formed a coalition we would have got a minority Tory government which wouldn't have had much power and would have called another election, probably by now.

    The Lib Dems argument for forming the coalition was that it was in the national interest to form a strong and effective government. I understand the logic behind that, but now they're being punished.

    I actually voted Lib Dem for the first time last year. I knew there was going to be a hung parliament with the Tories likely to be the biggest party. I was quite happy to see the Lib Dems form a coalition as I thought they'd be a good counterweight to all your Tory rightwing idiots. I certainly don't feel betrayed by the Lib Dems.

    The next few years are going to be tough and you get the impression that future relations with the Tories will be more business like and little more distant.

    Not great for Labour

    Pretty so so results for Labour and Ed Milliband.

    I’m beginning to think that being in charge of a political party is like being a Premier League football manager.

    Everyone wants instant results. You don’t get the chance to build a winning team over a number of years, you need to be challenging for honours straight away.

    This is the problem Ed Milliband has. He’s not doing a bad job, but at the same time he’s not exactly setting the world alight either. Thursday’s results proved this.


    They might not being showing it in public, but in private senior Tories must be laughing. The Lib Dems have taken all the flak for the government’s spending cuts and somehow they’ve managed to come out unscathed, with even more councillors. How have the Tories managed to pull this off. I can’t help but have some grudging respect for them.

    A Big no to AV

    I didn’t get a chance to vote in the referendum on AV. I discovered that Newham borough council had removed me from the electoral register, which I didn’t know about.

    Despite my annoyance at being disenfranchised, I was pleased to see the No Campaign win, as I would have voted no as well.

    It’s not that I’m against electoral reform, but I think the vote came at the wrong time, and the country needs a longer discussion on electoral reform. The public needs to be made more aware of the different electoral systems on offer and the pros and cons associated with each one.

    What’s going on in Scotland?

    I’m not going to try and pretend I’m an expert on Scottish politics as I’m not, but it seems for personality and political charisma nobody up there can touch the SNP leader Alex Salmond

    Now that the SNP have full control, it'll be interesting to see how they deal with government cuts and less funding - they'll have nobody else to blame now they have a full majority.

    As for Scottish independence, I keep hearing that despite the SNP's win most Scots don't want full independence.

    It made me laugh when I heard David Cameron say he would be determined to see the union between England and Scotland remain.

    As a Tory, you probably want Scotland to become independent. The Labour Party would find it almost impossible to win a general election ever again.

    Monday, 2 May 2011

    Osama Bin Laden found and killed!

    I woke up this morning and checked my phone for any messages. I then decided to look at my twitter feed to see what was going on in the twittersphere. The last thing I expected was to discover that the world's most wanted man Osama Bin Laden was dead!

    Nobody saw this coming - an absolutely massive news story!

    So many questions and thoughts on this. I'll run through them quickly.

    Is this is the end of the 'War on Terror'?

    Probably not, but it's a huge symbolic blow to Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism. I've heard the theory that says Bin Laden's death increases the likelihood of revenge attacks against the West, but you can't think like that. Even if Bin Laden continued to live, Islamic terrorists would still be looking for opportunities to attack the West.

    Are Al Qaeda still relevant?

    We've seen uprisings and revolutions all across the Arab World this year, and it's telling that the likes of Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists haven't been involved.

    People across the region are looking for greater freedom and more western style democracy. Al Qaeda have been on the sidelines almost observing what's been going on. I think it shows that for many Muslims in the Middle East they don't see Islamic radicalism as an answer to their problems.

    Personal victory for Obama

    Has Bin Laden's death just secured Obama a second term as President? What a huge PR coup - the death of America's most wanted terrorist was achieved on Obama's watch.

    You only have to look at the scenes on the news of Americans celebrating to see how much this means. Are American voters going to forget this when it comes to next year's Presidential elections? Of course there's going to be other issues, the economy for one, but surely it's Obama's to lose after this.

    Did the Pakistan authorities really not know where Bin Laden's compound was?

    It was reported that the Americans kept the operation to kill Bin Laden secret from Pakistani intelligence. Not surprising when for years there's been rumours and stories of Pakistan's links with the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

    Bin Laden spent the last 10 years evading capture after escaping Afghanistan and it's hard to believe that at no point nobody within the Pakistani security and intelligence authorities knew of his whereabouts.

    Having spent a day a watching the news coverage, listening to the reports and analysis from the experts, I think you can say Osama Bin Laden's death changes everything and nothing.

    Islamic terrorism will still exist and go on, but this is the end of a chapter. As they say in America it's 'closure' a word I really hate but I'm going to use it. It's closure for a many Americans and for what happened on 9/11.

    It's a huge psychological boost for America, a damaging blow for Al Qaeda. Like me you probably thought Bin Laden would never be found but his death has shown the terrorists, America and the world that the determination and resolve to defeat international terrorism won't decrease.