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Kevin Hart and the art of being British.

26 Feb

028kevinhart1

A few hours ago, US actor and verbalist Kevin Hart sat down in a BBC television studio in London and ‘did’ an interview, plugging his new film.

In order to ‘do’ one of these promotional interviews, you have to have at least one ‘anchor’ person who ‘does’ the role of asking you the right questions – the ones that allow you to sell your film.

Ideally, two anchors – one male and one female – should ‘do’ the questioning. These ‘anchors’ should always dress like your parents. In fact, TV Anchors are the viewer’s metaphorical parents in an idealistic, slightly off-kilter version of reality on Planet Earth. They are unfeasibly polite, informed, interested and well groomed. Nothing like reality.

024anchors2

On this occasion, a live breakfast slot in a foreign country and a perfect storm created Television Gold. Sochi Olympic Games…? You have nothing on what happens next. Within 45 seconds, Hart had started demolishing everything in site. Intellectually speaking.

010kevinhart3

He completely took the piss out of everyone in the studio – including his management and financial backers.

He destroyed the place.

He killed them all.

He did it ‘live’ and everybody loved him for it.

Here, thanks to Aunty Beeb, is the original footage, still warm. It seems to only have two edit points, so this is pretty much live and without a pause. Please watch it now! I’ll wait here while you do.

Taking The Piss

It is so hard for the British to explain to the wonderful plethora of people living elsewhere in the world what we mean when we talk about ‘taking the piss’. Taking the Mickey, extracting the Michael. Some countries ‘get it’ more easily than others. North Koreans in particular have difficulty with it. Only 35% of North Americans get it. The French? 10% at most. Latvians – 98.3%. Local Police Officer who just pulled you over in your car? .025%. Don’t go there.

Kevin Hart is taking the piss. If you do not see it then it doesn’t matter. If you laugh at his jokes and think that he is funny then that is great. No problem!

But he is.

Hart is described as an actor and ‘comedian’. He has busted his chops on the standup circuit in his own country and he has not been handed a backstage pass to fame. Along the way, he has learned like all standup comedians that his world is actually the world of the Gladiator.

Ideally, this is a point that the audience is unaware of but every standup comedian contemplates only one thing in their quiet moments: Death.

Comedians speak of ‘dying’ on stage. They dream of ‘killing’ their audience. Only one can win.

Kevin Hart makes no secret of his inspiration. Step forward Cosby, Murphy, Chapelle and Rock. That is all fine.

But really – there is something much faster, sharper, sooner, quicker and nastier about Kevin Hart. He is very much a man of his own design and this BBC footage perfectly describes that. He can ‘riff’ and feed off the slightest input but he can do it so fast that, when you re-run the videotape, you still marvel at his sure-footed and lightning fast responses.

This is rapping, finally crossing over into standup. The intonation, the stanzas, the speed of delivery.

In a world where it is now safe to agree that HipHop has become truly multi-cultural and truly a World genre, is Kevin Hart the first ‘verbalist’ to break rap into standup, like a chef cracking an egg into a bowl to make an omelette?

Okay, let’s leave the food analogy to one side. Today, he killed. He became a killer. Count the number of words per minute. Count the separate ideas delivered. Count the punchlines. Measure the total time on air and look at the sheer speed!

Kevin Hart in a black tuxedo, driving a ’65 Aston Martin. Tick box if Insurance Indemnity purchased. Box ticked. Since nobody else is currently standing up to the line, Mr Hart will be happy to serve.

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Trolling: Understanding what it is and also why it happens.

24 Sep

Introduction

The topic of ‘Trolling’ is being discussed in great detail on the internet and in the media these days.

Or is it…?

To celebrate yet another confused and inaccurate article being launched on the BBC’s internet site, Roadwax feels that the time is right to encourage proper debate on the topic. One should never encourage a troll but one needs to know what food they like to eat.

This post is a stripped-down “How-to” guide for those of us who do not have much time right now but need to understand more about trolling. It is intended to inform and also to encourage a clearer understanding of what ‘trolling’ actually is.

By necessity, this article also discusses internet bullying. However a separate Roadwax article deals with this topic in more detail.

If anyone wants to read the full, unabridged articles then please email loopwithers@live.co.uk and ask for a copy. Don’t all rush at once. Oh – there aren’t any pictures in this post. Trolls do not really go for pictures. It is all about words. Bring on the trolls.

The current situation: where we are right now

A quick search through the world’s top English-language internet news sites reveals that the word ‘trolling’ is being frequently used but never properly explained. A longer and more refined search will just make you want to weep. It soon becomes clear that the word is being thrown around without a clear understanding of its meaning. After more than thirty years of trolling on the internet across the world, we rarely find a definition of exactly what a ‘troll’ is.

Is ‘internet trolling’ actually being discussed and described or is it simply being mentioned, like a fashionable buzz-word…?

Now is a good time to clear up some frequent misunderstandings that are beginning to creep in to the current debate. If we do not agree a clear understanding of what trolling is then we cannot effectively deal with the topic.

A brief history of the troll

Trolling has been around for centuries. Every culture with a well-established language has always had trolls. Trolling particularly appears at times when there is war and conflict. Diplomatic statements and war-time propaganda messages are often good examples of simple trolling. Over the last couple of decades, ‘internet trolls’ have appeared. We owe them a debt of thanks. If the internet community had not labelled them as ‘Trolls’ for the first time, we would never have realised that they existed.

The differences between a troll and bully

Trolls are not necessarily bullies…but bullies can be trolls.

Think of it like this: A house can be a home but a home is not necessarily a house.

The current focus in the media is to describe trolls as bullies. This is a dangerously incorrect assumption because it masks what is really going on and…is quite possibly a form of trolling itself!

It is very important that we separate out ‘trolling behaviour’ from ‘bullying behaviour’ to understand what is going on when we look at our screens.

Here is a short list explaining why we should make a distinction:

1) Bullies get given elevated status in society if described as trolls – a label which they do not deserve.

2) Bullying is a form of psychological or physical pressure used to unreasonably coerce people. Trolling isn’t.

3) Trolls and bullies both cause disruption but in different ways. They operate similarly but differently.

4) Trolls wreak destruction and disorder but bullying causes distress and depression.

5) Knowing the difference can keep us protected both on and offline and it can even save lives.

How to spot an online bully:

Online bullying can only take place on websites that allow people to ‘comment’ – write and upload statements that other people can read. Think hard on this point. Notice how many websites do not allow the posting of comments or else ‘suspend’ the writing of comments for a while. Often this denial of the ‘comment’ facility is being carried out to stop bullying or trolling being possible.

So, online bullying takes place most often in ‘forums’ – where a topic can be discussed openly by anyone who want s to have their say. YouTube videos, News Website articles, Enthusiast Forums, Bebo, Askfm…the list of places who offer forums or the opportunity to comment is almost endless. This is where trolling and bullying takes place.

An online bully will always make a personal attack or a particular threat to writers in the forum. Always.

Here is an imaginary ‘thread’ on an imaginary forum:

Bob123:          ‘I think this video is great. I love cats! Cats are so cool!’

Fishman:        ‘Check out 1’24” when the cat goes nuts! LOL!!!’

ZZZmonkey:   ‘You think video footage is real? You are so stupid.’

Bob123:           ‘F**k you, a**hole, you are just a sad piece of sh*t. Go play with yourself.’

ZZZMonkey:   ‘Video is not real! If you think cat actually jump then you are nuts.’

Fishman:         ‘In English please? Are you another crazy Russian who eats cats?’

Bob123:           ‘You f***ing piece of commie sh*t. F**k you.’

ZZZMonkey:   ‘Video is fake. I am not commie. You know nothing.’

There is only one bully in this example. It is Bob123. ZZZMonkey is holding a different opinion about the video and tries to persuade others that they are watching fake footage and believing it is real. ZZZMonkey is straightforward and also rude but he doesn’t bully. Bob123 immediately responds by attacking him personally and then Fishman adds what is possibly a racist slant in his reply which has nothing to do with the points being made by either side.

Now, read the thread again and imagine that:

Bob123 is aged 11 years, female, goes to school.

Fishman is aged 33 years, male, works in telesales.

ZZZMonkey is aged 42 years, transgender, CCTV operator.

Notice how the internet removes so much information that can help us make sense of what appears to be a pointless conflict situation. Bullying often seems more horrifying precisely because it often appears to be so personally vindictive yet it is conducted by apparent strangers.

Bullying is often carried out by people who are struggling to understand what is going on around them. They feel insecure and threatened and so they lash out. They will continue to do this until they are forced to stop. It becomes an exciting new power and the thrill of hurting people is – as adults eventually learn – addictive. If bullying is allowed to go on, then that is exactly what it does. It goes on, and on…and on.

How to spot an online troll:

Trolling is the opposite of bullying. It is often carried out by people who are confident and assured about the world they see. They feel excited by the chances to mess around with the comfort level of less confident or less well informed online guests. They get their fun from wrecking, derailing, destroying and challenging the view of others. They don’t get their thrill from attacking people but instead from manipulating what people think.

Trolls love the power they get from controlling proceedings, dictating what the debate is actually about. Trolls might also bully but then – if they do, they have failed as trolls and should be desribed as bullies. Trolling has nothing to do with bullying.

Trolling is all about power and manipulation. Bullying is all about hatred and aggression.

Let’s run the same scenario again. Remember – we know nothing about the three people who are commenting.

WigWax: ‘I think this video is great. I love cats! Cats are sooo coooool!’

108566M: ‘check out 1′ 24″ when the cat goes nuts! LOL!!!’

Nobby:  ‘My dog could eat that cat. Dogs rule. sorry but thats the way it is.’

108566M ‘Dogs spread disease and suck up to their owners. You sad moron.’

Nobby: ‘Grow up. Cats spread more disease than dogs. Fact. Is a cat gonna save you in a robbery?’

WigWax: ‘Great. A drug dealer wants to lecture me about how great his dog is. Sad.’

Nobby: ‘Maybe I sell your mother all the crack she takes just to put up with you. What’s wrong with that?’

WigWax: ‘Why don’t you get a real job and stop wrecking people’s lives? You scum.’

108566M: ‘I feel sorry for you. You will rot in Hell. God will punish you.’

Nobby: ‘My dog just ate your God. And your cat.’

Nobby is an internet troll. Nobby just derailed this thread and turned the conversation from the love of cats to the morality of drug-taking and religious concepts. Nobby did this without using threats or bullying. Nobby relied on WigWax and 108566M to respond with anger and abuse and Nobby is now firmly in control of this thread. You can use your own imagination to work out how much fun Nobby has over the next few hours…

Notice also – and this is so important – how this thread would simply stop if nobody responds to Nobby’s last comment. The troll cannot continue to dominate unless others allow that to happen by posting replies. The troll can only

a) have the last word in the thread

b) kill the thread by killing off the orginal discussion

c) encourage a Moderator to delete the thread because it is now wrecked

If someone now posts:

Girlfriday: “Nice trolling. Anyway – back to the thread. Cats ARE cool…!”

…then there is still a good chance that Nobby will dive back in and continue. Remember – Trolling is about control and manipulation. Do not feed the trolls.

Trolling on world News Sites:

All news sites – ABC, NBC, BBC, Reuters…every news site in the world – are trolled every day. The trolling takes place in the section of the site where people can leave their comments. Some trolling is done for the sheer twisted fun of it but some trolling is done for a darker reason – to stifle proper debate and to crush dissent.

I could put a link in here to a real-life example that is happening now. Unfortunately, by the time you click on it, the debate will either have moved on or else the comments will have been removed.

Instead, I encourage you to click on your favourite national news site and find a breaking news item which also has a comments thread – and watch it evolve. See if you can spot the point at which an internet troll begins to change the topic under discussion.

Is it a story about a car crash that suddenly changes to a discussion on banning older drivers? Is it a news item on a new hospital brain scanning procedure and the comment thread changes into an argument about abortion?

Hopefully, (to prove my point here) as soon as you see this happening, a Moderator for the site will ‘close’ the comments so that no more posts are allowed.

The comments thread will disappear from view if you revisit the site.

The troll will have successfully stopped open debate and discussion.

The troll will have won.

Trolling on ‘SIF – Sites’ (single interest fanatics) – and YouTube

YouTube provides a fascinating and vibrant introduction for anyone who wishes to study trolling, bullying or any aspect of mass culture. If you watch YouTube, you will see examples of trolling easily and quickly. They are identical to those you may find on the thousands of sif-sites around the world.

YouTube is the most influential and powerful internet media site in the world of 2013. Facebook simply pales into insignificance by comparison, even if one takes their already mathematically corrupted viewing and membership figures…and doubles them.

YouTube allows anyone to upload any piece of film and audio footage for the world to see. It is a place where all you have to do is type in any ‘search’ word and you will find a list of uploaded film relating to that topic. It is hugely influential, whereas other sites are not.

Precisely because of its universal accessibility and worldwide reach, it becomes far more valuable than any single news channel. Notice how, when a new story breaks on a world news channel, one can frequently discover related footage existed a few hours sooner on YouTube.

YouTube allows users to ‘comment’ on footage uploaded by other users.

Think of a popular topic that interests you personally. Go onto YouTube and search for films and videos on that topic. Read the YouTube ‘comments’ and you will see trolling and bullying laid bare. You may also find supreme examples of ‘Moderating’ – where potential trolls and bullies are put in their place by third parties – other visitors to the site.

However – for the sake of clarity – remember that YouTube’s own Moderators use a firm but light touch. YouTube – like Twitter – is a citadel of free speech and expression and therefore it aims to censor as little as possible. YouTube singlehandedly defines the complex struggles involved in maintaining a world concept of ‘free speech’ by simply allowing it.

To many new viewers, this is quite a shocking and revelatory experience. YouTube allows us to see, experience and come face to face with the often shocking world of free speech. Free speech can easily be controlled by bullies and trolls and those who are spectacularly ignorant.

It should be borne in mind that a vast proportion of the most extreme comments on sif-sites and YouTube as well are left by children aged 12 – 18 years. Whether this consideration makes you feel better or worse probably depends a lot upon how you value the power of education.

Trolling as a means of stifling dissent.

As we see in the example of News websites, a troll can stop debate taking place by encouraging the Moderator to close the thread down because it has got out of hand. It has collapsed into a vicious fight between overheated commentators who are now verbally abusing each other.

Most news sites used to try to keep trolls out and keep any debate going but this proved to be a thankless and exhausting task. Now, newsgroups simply ‘pull’ the thread. It is safer and cheaper. Discussion forums – where enthusiasts go to talk with each other – still allow trolls. They cannot really close the forum just because a troll has moved in. Instead, they warn them against trolling – either by an online message for all to see – or privately and more discretely.

A wise troll will move on once their actions are identified. There used to be a saying: “Please do not feed the trolls”. Some web forums still use it but, in truth, that request is usually lost on the very people who should heed it. Trolls have plenty to feed on.

Professional Trolling

But suppose that the troll is employed by a political party? Suppose the news item on the news site or the article in a discussion forum is about a piece of legislation being proposed by The Gorilla Party (hey – I’m just making up a name to keep things simple) and The Ostrich Party doesn’t want that piece of news to give attention to their competitor?

Suppose the Gorilla Party announces support for “free day-care for all children of working single mothers. Vote for the Gorillas and get free day care!”

The Ostrich Party are pretty sure that this legislation will never get passed because it is too expensive. They have worked out the costing figures and they are certain that the Gorilla Party have too. But they are annoyed because the Gorilla Party is bringing to people’s attention the fact that the Ostrich Party do not have their own solution on offer. It makes them look un-caring by comparison.

Do you really believe that the Ostrich Party will keep clear of the ‘comments’ section on that news item? Of course not! They will get a troll in there as soon as possible, to wreck the debate and hopefully get the comments page closed down as quickly as possible.

Stifle debate.

Unintentional trolls

Especially when it comes to news sites, people sometimes become trolls without realising it. They add comments without understanding that they have derailed the discussion.

If a news item is about an accidental house fire where a baby has tragically died, the comments may be mostly from people who wish to express their sadness and support. This is normal and well meant. It goes on all the time. Feelings are intense and people want to express their grief or sympathy.

Now is a bad time for someone to point out the fact that the parents were recent immigrants to the country and they had trouble calling the emergency services because they could not speak the same language.

This comment might have actually been intended as a helpful explanation. It might be a very significant factor that needs to be addressed by the local fire department.

The comment has the opposite effect on the thread. It appears sudden and insensitive and detracts from the emotional integrity of the other comments. The comment thread collapses into accusations of racism, xenophobia, bitter personal abuse and the moderator has to close it down since meaningful debate is now long gone and no postive advantages exist to keeping it open.

This imaginary example shows us how trolls can sometimes be innocent commentators who merely make a badly-timed or poorly-judged observation but meant no actual harm. It illustrates how we can all unintentionally appear as trolls if we mis-judge the mood on a forum or a comment thread.

We might be intending to make a postive or constructive comment – to encourage the debate to broaden out and not simply dwell on the tragedy but instead the cause – but we get it wrong. Suddenly, we have appeared as a troll in the eyes of our peers.

Part-time Trolling

Anyone can be a part-time troll. If we understand anything about trolling then we realise the power that trolling can give us. If we take the power of the troll and turn it to good use, is that not a good thing?

So, suppose you saw a bully attacking someone on a website. Would you ‘troll’ them as a way of stopping them carrying on? Would you try and draw them off their poor target by a display of intelligent trolling without becoming a bully yourself? I reckon that you might. A lot of people do.

Maybe, you would never dream of trolling but then you accidentally stumble across a comment thread where one writer is abusing another simply because of their ethnic background and not for their views. Would you do something to stop it? Of course, the choice always rests with you.

Although trolling is almost always carried out to stifle or subvert debate, it can be seen how trolling can sometimes be used as a weapon against hatred or bullying.

Basic Trolling

At its most basic, trolling is just a means of subverting or suppressing debate. Basic trolling is seen when an internet  discussion suddenly gets ‘hit’ by someone who types: “Buy viagra. Meet beautiful girls and get love pills for free when you click on this address: www.khfskfh.com Best tablets guaranteed.”

They upload this message five or six times in a row on the thread. Let’s be honest, they have probably killed any conversation stone dead. Still want to discuss how mortgage interest relief can be used as a social tool? Nah…nor me.

Sophisticated Trolling

Some trolling is outstandingly sophisticated. It is carried out to undermine or discredit people who are – in the eyes of the troller – deserving to be trolled. People who make overtly political statements, politicians of all levels, are frequently trolled by their adversaries. After all, politics is a dirty game. Trolls silently read the comments left by a particular person over months or even years until they find the right moment. Note – the troll never breaks cover by joining the debate. They just sit and wait and bide their time.

Then, when their ‘target’ – frequently a politician, media professional or social advocate – appears to be gaining fame and popular support, the trolling starts.

‘Great speech. Funny how you support free childcare now but stood against it last year. click this link to your earlier comments: www.abvkdzz.com

Off we go. The trolling has started. The debate is being diverted away from the wishes of the speech-maker.

Governments and politically-charged departments are the most sophisiticated trollers of all. Who can forget the British Government’s encouragement of the belief among the world’s people that Adolf Hitler only possessed one out of a possible maximum of two testicles?

Serious questions raised in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 quickly focussed on asking how the terrible catastrophe had happened in the first place. Go look at the threads now. 99.9% of the arguments are buried under tons of trolled nonsense. The aeroplanes were holograms and the whole thing never happened. It was the Illumnati. It was little green men.

It is now almost impossible for anyone find out how the events on 9/11 actually managed to happen. Sophisticated Trolling at its finest.

Conclusion:

Trolling is an integral part of modern internet communication. it is the art of subverting or suppressing debate. But there is a great reluctance within the world’s government and media to discuss in detail what it is and how it works.

Now, isn’t that strange?

Here’s a picture of a kitten:

"He told you there would be no pictures. He lied to you. And I'm not a kitten.."

“He told you there would be no pictures. He lied to you. And I’m not a kitten..”

Does your Procter and Gamble washing powder destroy your will to live…?

5 Dec
Okay...its a box of  washing machine powder...but...

Okay…its a box of washing machine powder…but…

Procter & Gamble UK make a huge range of cleaning, grooming and beauty products. Beginning in the United States in 1837, they have always been pretty clever when it comes to selling stuff like washing powder or anything that involves mixing a few chemicals together to spread over yourself or your kitchen.

Trouble is, they can’t write good copy. I mean, they really have a problem with creative writing. A big problem. Scary big.

This is their household favourite, ‘Fairy Non-Bio’ washing powder:

...nothing suspicious here...everything appears to be quite normal...but...

…nothing suspicious here…everything appears to be quite normal…but…

And this is the same pack from another angle:

...there seems to be some kind of important message on the back...

…there seems to be some kind of important message on the back…

And this is what it says on the back:

oh dear...

oh dear…

I think P&G want mother to sing these words under her breath to the tune of:  ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ – that totally bonkers 1930’s hit song – while  smiling lovingly at her baby.

If you happen to be a baby who’s mother is currently smiling at you and singing these words, get out quick. Crawl towards the door and leave. Never look back.

“I’m a little toddler

Short, not stout,”

Okay, this has already gone wrong, hasn’t it? Babies are almost universally stout. Take a look at your own logo at the bottom right of the pack. ‘Stout’ appears to be very much in evidence. You got a problem with ‘stout’?

“Feel my jumper,

Soft, no doubt…”

Wooaaah…right, so this is already getting way out of line. Is this a call from P&G to encourage a a new trend in baby-fondling? Are babies supposed to be admired and assessed for the softness of their jumpers? Is this how we are?

“When I get all dirty,

Hear me shout:”

Ever heard a baby shout? Did that shout include any recognised words? Anything to do with mass-produced cleansing agents?

“Get the box of liquitabs out!”

Oh dear…oh dear…oh dear…

Where does one start?

Close your eyes and imagine a dirty baby shouting that line at you.

Scary Bad.

Imagine if Sesame Street  suddenly did an episode on bestiality. Or, suppose you saw Kermit theFrog with a needle stuck in his arm. See what I mean? The dream is forever shattered…

And as for suggesting that one should clean up a dirty baby by using a sachet of harsh chemicals, designed to be put in a washing machine…

Okay. Now, dear reader, (as fellow WordPress blogger Linda Vernon might say) we imagine that afternoon meeting in the Procter & Gamble marketing department when this copy was actually signed off.

“Well done, team!…Really pushed the ball uphill on this one!…I think we’ve totally cracked the message we want to send to the world!…Fantastic effort all round!…This is really going to hit the target market hard!…So proud…you guys make me so damn proud…!”

“Team, I feel that our job here is done. Now, let’s move straight on to solving World Poverty. Any ideas come to mind…?”

Crazy Bad.

Oh, since you ask, that spoon on the draining board is mine. I got others as well, but that one is particularly damn sexy, ain’t it? My house is fitted with an alarm, by the way…

Human Rights Industry for sale. Click here to add ‘Human Rights’ to shopping cart.

6 Nov

If you are reading these words, then you are a conscientious citizen who cares about protecting human rights.

Or else,  you are an employee belonging to one of  hundreds of worldwide government organisations who monitor the internet for early signs of organised dissent.

If you fall into both categories then your body may soon be found by a passer-by.

If you are ‘time-poor’ or otherwise have a boss who wears sunglasses inside the office, here are the two links:

This one is to the RFK Training Institute.

This one is to the BBC who have written an online article about them.

Off you go. See you back here later.

Over the last two years, Roadwax has noticed a couple of disturbing trends within the media.

1) The increasing use of the term “Human Rights Activist”.

2) Investigative journalists who mock Twitter for being a fickle gossip shop yet all have Twitter accounts.

Let’s take a closer look:

1) “Human Rights Activist”. Er…someone who actively promotes human rights? Not just a “Human Rights Supporter” – someone who supports basic human rights but…well…someone who goes a little bit further. Maybe, too far.

Even the most right-wing dictator or left-wing Supreme Leader supports human rights. It always looks good on their CV or resume and calms fears that they might actually be a right-wing dictator or a left wing Supreme Leader. But hey, running around and actively supporting Human Rights – now, that is just asking for trouble. Best stay at home and click ‘like’ on a Facebook campaign when asked. Don’t push it. Don’t get active. You need to be a trained pro to do all that stuff. Best leave it to someone else.

On what date in history did we normal humans apparently stop actively supporting our rights? Or, is popular media beginning to use the term ‘active’ as a kind of negative adjective, a nudge in the ribs to their readers and viewers?

“Watch out for Dave. He’s an Education Activist. He openly questions the teachers at parent meetings.”

“Watch out for Ella. She’s an Animal Welfare Activist. She persuaded her local store to stop selling battery-farmed eggs.”

Supporters are supposed to fill seats in the stadium and watch the activists do the work.

Nonsense. Dangerous nonsense.

We should all be Human Rights Activists. We should regain ownership of the term.

Which brings me neatly to point number 2).

Again, in the space of a couple of years, Twitter has gone from lightweight world chat-room to premier source of breaking news.

How do we know? Well, we could conduct a simple scientific experiment:

1) Have a huge storm hit a major city. New York will do fine.

2) Go on to Twitter and watch what ordinary people say and upload as pictures.

3) When someone uploads a picture of a shark swimming in their yard…

4) Watch how long it takes in seconds before major news websites carry the story…

5) …before dumping  it and instead running a “How to Spot a Faked Photo” article.

So, without causing any cruelty or suffering to animals, we can test out how the major news-gathering organisations work these days.

They watch Twitter. They use a mixed bag of paid and unpaid freelance reporters to report from the front line. They use activists.

Staff reporters visiting dangerous places? Not likely. Have you any idea how expensive and embarrassing it gets when a staff reporter gets their head stuck in a toilet in a Kiev brothel or runs down a local warlord’s mother-in-law while driving a Sixt Rental Toyota in Afghanistan? Nope. Staff reporters do the restaurant reviews and click on Twitter.

The RFK Training Institute have spotted this trend. The BBC have spotted the RFK Institute spotting this trend. Roadwax spotted the BBC spotting the RFK…oh – you know how word travels.

The RFK Institute in Florence, Italy are opening their doors today.

They are offering to train Human Rights Activists how not to get caught, killed or disconnected. The big beasts. The ones who report human rights abuses in other people’s countries. Countries where nobody can tell who the guys with the guns and the Toyota pickup truck work for. The guys outside your house.

If you want any more information, email  Valentina Pagliai on:  pagliai@rfkcenter.com but do not waste her time. They are apparently looking to focus efforts on the most high priority cases – the men and women who already have to hide from tyranny to stay alive long enough to report it.

The BBC says that the RFK Institute are going to sell courses to teach human rights activists how to protect themselves online from being tracked, monitored, shut down or effectively marginalised.

The first students will enroll in January 2013.

Strange.

Instead of offering all this information free to everyone via the internet, the RFK Institute is carefully hand-picking a few whose names will be kept secret and who will be trained behind closed doors.

Instead of freely revealing all the tips and tricks that every human ought to be aware of to be kept safe while using the internet in 2012, RFK is teaching maybe fifty or a hundred paying guests.

They will become the elite who can protect themselves from prying agencies. RFK Institute will issue the qualifications, I assume. Control the market, as it were.

The RFK Institute has just created the Human Rights Industry.

It has just put a price on knowledge instead of uploading it for free to everyone.

If I become a donor to this charity, will I get a monthly newsletter that includes a helpful ‘handy tip’ on how to keep my freedom online? I doubt it. I sincerely hope not.

The RFK Institute appears to be ‘professionalising’ human rights activism.

My heart hurts.

British Royal Wedding souvenirs “made in Chinese sweatshops” -BBC Radio 4

23 May

“Hey, Mister – wanna buy a dish cloth…?”

On 18th May 2012, at 02:21 GMT, the BBC Radio 4 World Service announced that many souvenirs for the recent Royal Wedding had been made in sweat-shops in China. Young Kate Middleton knows a bargain when she sees one.

The more you think about this amazing fact, the sadder and more strangely disconnected from reality the Royal Family appear to be.

I mean, these are not the counterfeit goods – these are the official souvenirs. The souvenirs that have been commissioned, sourced and approved by the Royal Family.

I have waited a few days to see if this news item was repeated by the BBC but, as is often the case, it has been ‘spiked’  – no doubt under pressure from Buckingham Palace who have their hands full trying to organize the celebrations for the Queen’s Birthday which is coming up shortly.

Now, you don’t suppose that Buckingham Palace awarded the contracts for  manufacturing these “Happy Birthday” souvenirs to the same eager applicants, do you…?

Would the Palace care to comment on this issue?

Ford USA announce “American Psycho” Edition of European Transit Van Model.

14 May

In one of the most complex and garbled series of press releases by any major manufacturer in recent years, Ford (USA) and Ford (UK) and Ford (Europe) have just announced their van model line-up for 2013.

After almost 50 years, America is finally going to receive Europe’s massively popular ‘Ford Transit’.

That is the European Ford Transit.

No – not the small, car-like van that is sold by Ford to Americans as the ‘Transit’. That is in fact the Transit Connect. It was called the Transit Connect partly because in Europe it ‘connects’ with the smallest version of its big brother – the Transit – when in it’s largest form, being, if you like, the smaller brother of the European ‘Transit’ range.

But, because Americans have never had the ‘Transit’ range in the first place, the significance of the appendage ‘Connect’ is kind of lost on them. They have the ‘Econoline’ series instead. So, Americans tend to refer to the Transit Connect as simply the Transit. Which makes perfect sense. Up until now.

But the water has been muddied even further by Ford (Europe) coincidentally announcing a so-called “2013 Transit” which is not actually the 2013 Transit that America is going to get. It is something quite separate as a model. Even though it may be sold in America from 2013 onward as well.

If you are currently holding your head in your hands because you cannot make sense of Ford’s Worldwide van line-up, fear not.

Roadwax is here to help you and to share your pain and try to explain.

It is all quite simple really. The marketing departments of Ford (USA) and Ford (Europe) seem to have temporarily screwed up their sequence of model identifiers. It happens, from time to time, as model ranges evolve  in different sales territories.

Whereas motor manufacturers normally allocate model names to allow customers to differentiate between different models across a product range, Ford have temporarily reversed this procedure. They have just re-named all their different models with the same damned name.

Ford (Europe) has just announced the “2013 Ford Transit” in Europe. However, Ford show a photograph of a brand new medium-sized van that bears no relation to either their existing Ford Transit, the Transit Connect or the American E-Series. It is yet another new stand-alone product. It looks suspiciously like a Volkswagen Transporter.

So, this vehicle that Ford (Europe) have announced as the “2013 Ford Transit” is not actually the 2013 Ford Transit. It is a completely separate model from any other Ford product, with its own unique body shell and dimensions. It is specifically intended to attract builders, plumbers and hotel courtesy bus drivers, all of whom have recently migrated to VW because the current Transit now looks boring, style-less and under-powered by comparison.

But in North America, the ageing ‘Econoline’ series is about to be replaced by the European Ford Transit. So, unless somebody at Ford jumps in quick (and I’m sure they will) the “2013 Ford ‘Transit” will be sold in America alongside the ‘Ford ‘Transit’ and the Ford ‘Transit’. And in Europe, the 2013 ‘Transit’ will sit in the model range right between the existing ‘Transit Connect’ and the existing ‘Transit’.

Confused?

Here is a quick history lesson with easy to understand pictures and explanations. It will help us all unravel the truth.

We begin our story in 1964. The American economy was booming. Britain was just a few years behind, still recovering from the devastation of war-time bombing, breaking out of post-war austerity and only just learning how to have a good time.

This is the van that started it all. This is the Ford (USA) Ford Econoline.

This is the van that every small business used in the 1960’s in America. Although astonishingly badly engineered by today’s standards, it was a giant leap forward for the world of light commercial vehicles at the time and light-years ahead of anything else available, anywhere in the world. It was an outstanding commercial success, right from the day of its launch.

Ford (USA) were so delighted with its sales success that they called up Ford (UK) on the telephone. The conversation went something like this…

Ford (USA): “Get ready to rock, you skinny bunch of lime-soaked half-wits!! The ‘Econoline’ is coming to the UK! You guys can build it and sell it all across Europe!’

Ford (UK): ‘You must be mad. Go away. Besides, we are too busy trying to pull our Ford Thames out of the hedge at the end of the driveway and we haven’t got time to play silly games. ‘

 A 1963 British Ford Thames. It survived because nobody tried to drive it.

Ford (USA): ‘No – listen! This Econoline is the solution to all your problems with your Ford Thames! The Econoline actually turns corners when you pull on the steering wheel! Its a major step forward in driver safety!’

Ford (UK): ‘Driver what...? Look, can you send us some more rope? We’ve just snapped our last bit. ‘

Ford (USA): ‘That’s what we are trying to explain, you schmucks! Your booming consumer economy needs a real van! One that can actually carry more than a bag of spanners without grounding. A van with room on the inside so you can carry  lots and lots of boxes!’

Ford(UK): ‘We put the boxes on the roof if they don’t fit inside. No thanks.’

Ford (USA): ‘Oh, yeah…? And where exactly are the boxes you put on the roof-rack of your Thames?’

Ford (UK): ‘They are scattered across a potato field. Look, stop rubbing it in and send us some more bloody rope…!’

Ford (USA): ‘Nope. We’re gonna send you an Econoline and you are going to evaluate it and then build it.’

(Ford USA  sent an Econoline in a crate to Ford  UK. A few weeks went by and nothing was heard. Eventually, Ford USA telephoned England to find out how things were going).

Ford (USA): ‘Well, whaddya think of the Econoline? Great, ain’t she…?’

Ford (UK): ‘It is stuck in the potato field at the end of the driveway. Can you send us some really, really strong rope?’

Ford (USA): Damn. How did you manage to get it stuck there?’

Ford (UK): I don’t know. All I remember was touching the gas pedal and then there was this huge roar. My false teeth got sucked down my throat and everything that had previously been in front and a long way away came rushing towards me really fast and ended up behind me.’

Ford (USA): Why didn’t you brake?’

Ford (UK): ‘I thought the hedge would do that for me. This Econoline seems to be a tad heavier than the Thames. The plan sort of fell apart…’

Ford (USA): ‘So, you like it, yeah…?’

Ford (UK): ‘It is totally unsuitable for the British market. We have decided to build our very own van. We are going to call it the ‘Transit’. It will have the ride and handling of a typical British car. It will turn corners and have an engine that barely develops enough power to pull the skin off a rice pudding. That way, our world will be safe again.’

Ford (USA): ‘Transit, eh…? Hmm…the name will never catch on. You need something more sexy. How about “F-Series”?’

Ford (UK): ‘That is both rude and disrespectful to the Queen, sir. Women would lose their moral values and society would end. No – “Transit” is a nice, sensible name. Also, we are going to put the engine behind the front axle but in front of the driver so that the weight distribution allows for a thing called “handling”.

 1965. The Ford Transit. A legend is born.

Ford (USA): ‘ “Handling”? What is that? We don’t have handling in America. Is it some kind of cheese?’

Ford (UK): ‘We just invented it. “Handling” is the means by which vans can be kept separate from hedges and potato fields.’

(The years passed and the Ford Transit became legendary as the prime mover of goods across all Europe.)

 A 1970 Transit with a new and sexy grille.

 A 1980 Ford Transit with an even sexier grille.

 A 1990’s Transit with an un-sexy “Smiley-Face” grille.

 A 2005 Transit with ‘can’t be bothered to try’ grille

  A 2010 Transit with the ‘stolen from a VW Crafter’ grille.

Meanwhile, Ford America dropped the word ‘Econoline’ because it sounded cheap and created the  ‘E-Series’. Everyone still referred to it as the ‘Econoline’ and so Ford said “Ah…what the Hell…” and called it both.

Every van driver in Britain wanted one but Ford remembered the incident with the Econoline and the potato field and decided it was not a good idea. Also, it was calculated that just six Ford E-Series vans would consume more gasoline within three hours than Britain could import in a week.

 A Ford Econoline. Big, powerful and utterly pornographic.

(The decades passed, a few wars happened and then one day, Ford (USA) emailed Ford (UK) to see how things were going).

Hi, Ford UK!

We just got a Facebook page and it is really cool! Why don’t you pop over and “like” us? 🙂 FordUSA.com

Hi Ford USA!

That’s really clever! How do you do that round yellow face thing? Rgds, Ford (UK) Ltd.

Hi Ford UK!

Hope you are well. We can’t be assed to re-design the E-Series. Can we steal your Transit design? 🙂 FordUSA.com

Hi Ford USA!

Sure, no probs. Have emailed you a picture of it!

Hope you like it!  :-*+)) Ford (UK) Ltd.

Hi Ford UK!

WTF is THAT!!!??? OMG. It looks like  a Volkswagen Transporter got hit by a badger. Totally gross front end, man.

Hi Ford USA!

It is our 2013 Ford Transit! You said you wanted one! Oh – by the way – how do you do the face with the smile thing?

Hi Ford UK!

F*** the smiley face. Where is your Ford Transit? The REAL Transit ? 😦 You’ve had it since 1965, ferrchrissakes???

Hi Ford USA!

Oh. That one. That is as tired out as a hooker on Sunday. We can’t even sell them to builders. Take it if you want it. PS How do you do that sad face thing? Rgds, Ford (UK) Ltd *–P

Hi Ford UK!

Thanks! Hey – guess what we have done to your Ford Transit!!! 😀

Hi Ford USA!

What – the one that looks like a Volkswagen? 🙂

Hi Ford UK!

No – stop going on about THAT one. It is just getting everybody confused. Its just a goddamn VW with a Ford badge. 😛

Hi Ford USA!

Oh. We spent all night staying up and trying to make it look good. Sorry you don’t like it. 😦

Hi Ford UK!

LMFAO! It looks pants. Anyway – check this out, dude. Look what we’ve done to your old European Transit! Twin Turbo!!! V6!!! 😀   😀   😀

Next Gen Ford Transit Ecoboost Outline

Hi Ford USA!

You can’t be serious…that is….OBSCENE!!!!  By the way, what does “LMFAO” mean?

Hi Ford UK!

Hahahahahahahaaha….! F**k you.

That’s right, folks!

Ford of America have gone and stuffed a 350 BHP twin-turbo gasoline V6 into Ford Europe’s ageing ‘Transit’! This psychotic, tyre-burning monstrosity of a van will now replace their home-grown Econoline range.

And, no….we Brits will not be allowed to own one in case we hurt ourselves. Instead, we will be persuaded to buy Ford’s new VW  Transporter look-alike or else plod on with our 90 BHP or 130 BHP versions that are already well past their sell-by date.

BMW(UK) Car Warranties latest explanation. Doesn’t.

4 May

In black and white…?

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has just emailed me to pass on their conclusion into my query that BMW (UK) Ltd were offering only “dealer” warranties instead of “manufacturer’s” warranties with new BMWs. 

I’ll let you read their  own words:

 

Date 1 May 2012 Email enquiries@oft.gov.uk
Dear Mr ******
BMW car warranties
I refer to our correspondence regarding the question you asked in your email of 23
February to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), as to the car manufacturer’s responsibilities
with regard to BMW dealer warranties.
You had pointed out, that according to its website BMW did not appear to provide a
manufacturer warranty, but referred instead to a Three Year Unlimited Mileage Dealer
Warranty.
We discussed your concerns with Motor Codes, a self-regulatory body for the UK motor
industry which offers advice to consumers on a range of issues, including those relating to
warranties.
Although it is termed a three year dealer warranty by BMW (UK), we understand that it is
comprised of a two year manufacturer warranty and a one year dealer warranty which
may otherwise be referred to as a UK warranty.

However, all claims within the three year warranty period will effectively go through
BMW, as BMW (UK) will back those three years of cover.

I hope this satisfactorily answers your question.

Okay, if I was confused before, I am slack-jawed now.

So…a  BMW three year Dealer warranty is actually a two year BMW Manufacturer warranty…almost a three year Manufacturer’s warranty, with that third year being added as a totally Dealer warranty…except it is overseen by the Manufacturer…as if it was a ‘three year Manufacturer’s Warranty’.

Is it just me…?

What do you think that the letter is saying?

Is there not something really confusing about the basic ‘legal definitions’ stuff here…?

I’ve got that certain  Nurburgringing in my ears…

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