One year, in my desperation to get a ticket to Glastonbury, it appears I attempted to pitch my own little installation in that hedonistic corner of Worthy Farm, Shangri-La:
*NOTE: There’s no record of Debs Armstrong or the rest of the Shangri-La team ever receiving this desperate stab at creativity. A sort-of Blade Runner meets Last of the Summer Wine*
In the midst of Shangri-La lies a lone bastion of wild abandon.
When the old regime collapsed, the great tea-drinking Pleasure Barons of the newly-independent Yorkshire Republic realised that Shangri-La would be the ideal place for them to establish a presence and indulge their vast hedonistic appetites.
Plans were drawn for a vast, sprawling pleasure palace and embassy for the Yorkshire Republic where the Pleasure Barons and their lackeys could indulge in all their worldly desires.
Shady deals with corrupt officials were made in the dark places of Shangri-La and the barons dispatched three Special Envoys to oversee the creation of the Yorkshire Pleasure Palace.
But the unthinkable happened.
As the Three Envoys made their decadent way to Shangri-La, the republic collapsed. A biological weapon launched by a neighbouring county-state destroyed the northern New Yorkshire tea plantations and the entire republic lay bankrupt, destitute and alone.
The plans (and money) for the YPP vanished into the shimmering neon night of Shangri-La, leaving the Three Envoys broke, alone and without a home.
But the spirit of Yorkshire is bright in her people, and these three people were chosen for their resilience and fortitude. Using their meagre possessions and what cultural artefacts they had with them they hammered out a small shack where they could pay tribute to their homeland and try to start out a new life.
The Shack, known as The Embassy of a Fallen State, houses three forlorn and dispossessed individuals who drink ‘tea’ to their old idols and quietly scheme to rebuild the old republic whilst embracing the whole spirit of their new land.
There is a corner of Shangri-La that will be forever, Yorkshire.
'Do eagles eat babies? Almost certainly not, especially in North American suburbs where sightings of such majestic winged creatures are rarer than rocking horse faeces.
So; why all the fuss yesterday about this video supposedly of a golden eagle attempting to snatch an unsuspecting toddler and carry it away for some human jerky meat for lunch?
Without putting too fine a point on it - people are idiots. Or rather, too many people wanted to believe that such an astounding clip could be anything but real.
The ‘golden eagle snatches kid’ video went viral, as bloggers and media organisations picked up that eagle shaped ball and ran with it. The video reached critical mass and became a digital self-fulfiling prophecy; “if the Mail Online, Guardian, and HuffPost are running it, surely it must be true?” viewers cried whilst warily watching the skies above for marauding birds of prey. Readers had faith in the basic fact-checking skills of their favourite media outlets, watched the video and clicked share.
Sadly, readers were let down by their beloved websites, at least in the initial rush to be first to cover the scary eagle baby-snatcher. Basic fact-checks and verification were left by the wayside apparently because the visual evidence was so striking. All were duped or wilfully suspended disbelief in the pursuit of pageviews.
It’s easy to spot these things if you know how, and one doesn’t even need much in the way of video editing or CGI knowledge to filter the wheat from the chaff. Here are a few helpful bullet-points that will enable you to call ‘bullshit’ (or not..) on the next viral video phenomenon.
Weather, time, location.
First an easy one; what was the weather like in the video and does it match up with reports from the area? Montreal has been under snow for a week or so now, so the video immediately should ring alarm bells. Can you see obvious landmarks in the video? Compare them to a Google map or your knowledge of the area – do they match up? If they don’t, the clip probably won’t stand up.
The most obvious clue in the eagle video is that NO-ONE in the video bar the camera-guy seems that arsed about the extremely unusual sight of a giant fucking bird of prey in a city park. A quick search of the internet shows that golden eagles are seldom seen in the skies of Montreal, so this particular example should provoke more of a response from witnesses. A lack of interaction indicates computer generated imagery in this case - Alex Hearn from the New Statesmen has more here.
The YouTube account used to post the video appears to have been set up solely for this clip. In the world of Twitter hoaxes this an obvious tell. It can be in video too. As mentioned, eagles are rare in cities, so this bird -if real- should show up elsewhere, if not on local news. It didn’t.
There’s a whole heap of other ways to check video for authenticity –ranging from simply picking up the phone and calling someone, to digital triangulation and IP address witchcraft- read more about Twitter and video verification here and here.
As an online journalist, video verification is a vital part of the job. The most obvious examples of this come from discovering raw, user-generated videos from places like Tahrir Square in Egypt or a bombed-out hospital in Aleppo, Syria. It is important to get facts right in journalism, and making sure a video is what the title or author say is part of this.
Many would say that a fake eagle video isn’t quite as important to get right as say, videos of revolution, massacre or even natural disaster – but this couldn’t be more wrong. By-and-large, Journalists (and I include bloggers in this) have a responsibility to the facts, and not to verify a simple clip like this one reveals corners have been cut. Corners are cut for many reasons, but in this case it seems apparent that every, Tom, Dick and Arianna Huffington was happy to take a short cut knowing that the video would serve them well with ‘hits.’
This kind of behaviour breeds lazy reporters. Lazy reporters are the kind of people who, when the pressure is on, give in to despicable acts like celebrity phone-hacking or bung cash-filled envelopes to police officers for stories.
Trust is undermined too. A story that initially was reported as true, is now an elaborate hoax. Readers begin to wonder what else their news provider has got wrong over the years. The old Sky News maxim, “never wrong for long” has taken it’s toll. There’s no shame in getting a story wrong, though, providing all involved learn from the error (and publish a correction) and I appreciate that the ‘sharing game’ has to be played to attract revenue, but allowing ourselves as journalists to be tricked by videos like this, we are applying another slash to an industry already dying of a thousand cuts.
A short(ish) thing I’ve bashed together after discovering the life of this remarkable, wonderful man. It reads a bit like an obit, but more people need to know of great men like this.
‘Whether by luck or good management, it has been the greatest thing I have done.’
In May this year a knight of the realm turned 103. Without any fanfare Sir Nicholas Winton celebrated the third year of his second century with friends and family at his home in Hampstead, north London.
But in his now-distant youth, Sir Nicholas did something that changed thousands of lives forever.
On March 14 1939, aged 29, battling crippling British bureaucracy and the looming menace of war in Europe, Nicholas Winton packed a small group of Czechoslovakian children onto an aircraft bound for England. These children escaped almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis. This small group of frightened children were only to be the beginning.
By the start of hostilities in September 1939, his ‘British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, Children’s Section’ had managed to get 669 youngsters out of Czechoslovakia. Almost all of their parents ultimately perished in Auschwitz.
Nicolas Winton was born into a Jewish family in 1909 with German relatives. As war became inevitable in the 1930’s Winton was well placed to understand the Nazi threat.
“Even though the true horror hadn’t yet emerged, we knew what was happening as we were putting up relatives and friends in our house. So I became convinced of the dire necessity to do something.”
In December 1938, whilst he was preparing for skiing holiday in Switzerland Winton, a young, left-leaning stockbroker received a phone-call from a friend urging him to leave his skis at home and head to Prague as the great machine of war began to gather steam, casting a dark shadow over Europe.
He found himself immersed in refugee camps in the Sudetenland, an area under German occupation. To Winton and others – if not the rest of the world – it seemed inevitable that the rest of Czechoslovakia would soon fall to the Nazis. The outbreak of a second European war was inevitable.
Time soon became invaluable to the young Mr Winton and his potential charges. He quickly set up an office in a hotel and single-handedly began setting up an organisation to facilitate the evacuation of children from Jewish families at risk from the Nazis.
November 1938 and the horror of kristallnacht promptedBritish MPs to pass legislation that allowed refugees under the age of 17 to enter the United Kingdom. The evacuees had to have a place to stay, and a warranty of £50 paid to ensure their eventual return home. Winton’s fledgling organisation took up the offer and he returned to London to help organise the process of re-homing the refugees.
“The problem was getting the people who would accept the children, and of course this was at a time when the evacuation of children from the south [of England] was taking place anyway.
“It’s marvellous that so many people did come forward. The unfortunate thing was that no other country would come along and help. I tried America but they didn’t take any. It would have made a vast difference if they had.”
“Whether by luck or good management, it has been the greatest thing I have done.”
The first ‘Winton train’ left Prague’s Wilson Railway Station for London on 19 April 1939, with 36 children on board. One of them was ten-year-old Vera Penny.
“I thought I was going on holiday, so I was shocked when I realised my mother was crying as she put me onto the train with a name tag around my neck. There was a sea of handkerchiefs being used to wipe away tears,” said Vera in 2011.
“My sister, Helena, came to England on a Winton train in July and, although we were with different families, we kept in touch. But at the age of 14, I heard my parents had been killed in concentration camps. It was terribly traumatic, but I owe Nicholas my life.”
These early successes inspired Mr Winton to do more. Between April and August 1939 he managed to arrange seven more trains. But it was the final train, due to leave Prague on the 3rd of September that still haunts him. The Second World War started and the Germans prevented its’ departure.
“War broke out” he remembers. “We never really worked out what happened to these children. In the main they perished. I’m told they boarded the train. And then it was prevented from leaving. It’s an awful feeling.”
During the six months that the trains were running, Nicholas Winton never went back to Prague. He met every single train and ensured the refugees were paired up with their foster-families. He continued his work on the London Stock Exchange, throwing himself into his operation on evenings and in his spare time.
All told, 669 children were rescued on eight trains and one aircraft.
A quiet, modest man, Sir Nicholas kept his endeavours secret for decades until his wife Grete found a detailed scrapbook in the attic in 1988.The scrapbook contained lists of children, including their parents’ names, and the names and addresses of the families that had taken them in.
The world found out about Winton’s work in 1988 during an episode ofThat’s Life. He was knighted on the 2002 New Year’s Honours list for his work with the Czechoslovakian ‘kindertransport’.
Nicholas Winton was born on May 19 1909, and was baptised a Christian. Since the war, he has not subscribed to any faith.
Some wise words from mofgimmers here. Mock outrage and ‘grief whores’ really piss me off.
If you didn’t know, some kid has been arrested after sending ‘abusive tweets’ to Olympic diver and all-round sporting equivalent of One Direction, Tom Daley. I mention 1D because he’s so young and I get creeped out by adults lusting over him.
Anyway. A 17 year old kid has been arrested and there’s YET ANOTHER Twitter witch-hunt afoot… and the whole thing is making me incredibly, incredibly uneasy. If you at all care, I’ll tell you why over the jump.
Yesterday evening Tim Shipman, deputy political editor of the Daily Mail, announced their exclusive story that GCSEs were to be scrapped in secondary schools in favour of the return of ‘O-Level’ qualifications. The news…
16 October 1968, the Olympic Stadium, Mexico City. Three athletes stand on the podium in their moment of triumph. Two of them, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raise their hands in what was recognised as the black power salute but which Smith later stated was a “human rights salute”.
As the country celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee, reports of terrible working conditions for events staff emerged to taint the weekend’s revellry.
It has been reported on The Guardian website that around 30 jobseekers and 50 people on apprentice’s wages of £2.80 an hour were bussed into the capital to work as stewards were told to sleep under London Bridge before working on Saturday’s river pageant.
Two jobseekers, under the cover of anonymity, told a shocking tale of sleeping rough in wet, cold conditions with no access to private toilet facilities, before being told to change into their work uniforms out in the open. After a 14 hour shift in the relentless rain on the banks of the Thames, the workers were transported to a muddy campsite in Essex to pitch tents in the dark.
The company involved in supplying the staff for the diamond jubilee confirmed to the Guardian in a statement that any unpaid work was part of a trial programme for well-paid roles during the London Olympics. The statement also added that the experience was voluntary and that “The nature of festival and event work is such that we often travel sleeping on coaches through the night with an early morning pre-event start – it is the nature of the business … It’s hard work and not for the faint-hearted.”
Whilst this may very well be the case, it certainly appears to be a cynical exploitation of the unemployed and inexperienced so that a no-doubt-lucrative contract for Close Protection UK could be fulfilled. As both the New Statesman and blogger Eddie Gillard – who was first to break the story – point out, the government allocated £1.5m for stewarding, so why were people going unpaid? David Cameron and the coalition must be hoping that the ‘Jubilympics’ hype sustains them a lead in the polls, but another accounts like this of mistreatment of ordinary people by those –like workfare- who appear to have the ear of the Prime Minister make the challenge of rallying a rapidly dividing nation to his fading flag increasingly difficult.
It is important for those seeking work and new careers to gain experience, but if the cost of this means participants will miss out basic comforts and suffer a loss of dignity, then serious questions need to be asked of companies like Close Protection UK and its kind to prevent such exploitative practices taking hold in the British workplace.