Category Archives: Education

Education-related ramblings

Video Industry & Television Studies Academic Essay June 2011 – A vision of the future for British broadcasting

The following is an Essay written for the Video Industry and Television Studies Module of my Degree Programme at the University of Portsmouth. It received a 2.1 Passing Grade, my First Year overall was passed at First Class Standard. The title for this Essay was “Using an historical perspective, outline a vision of the future for British broadcasting” and it was printed for submission on June 10 2011 – note that certain details may have become outdated since then owing to rapid developments in the UK Media.

Introduction
British broadcasting has, throughout its history, been an highly changeable medium. It has evolved constantly to keep up with advances in technology, changes in taste and an evolving political situation. This pace of change, always considerable, has been accelerating at an ever increasing rate. Today, the industry faces its largest upheaval ever as trends in multiple areas are shifting concurrently.

As a result, British broadcasting in the future will be virtually unrecognisable…

A Brief History of British Broadcasting
In the early days of broadcasting in Britain, Television, the dominant form of broadcasting today, was mostly a dream. The broadcasting age was kicked off by the advent of the radio in 1922. That year, a number of independent stations began broadcasting and the BBC was formed, initially broadcasting in London.

Right from the start, the BBC was funded by a License Fee. Initially, the Broadcasting Receiving License. The industry as a whole was protected from collapse by forming a syndicate, with royalties being earned on all wireless sets sold. By 1925, though, change was already in the air as the wireless manufacturers wanted out of the deal. Meanwhile, the BBC’s leader (Lord Reith) successfully convinced the Government’s Crawford Commission to continue Public Service broadcasting.

As a result, the British Broadcasting Commission, which largely survives to this day, was established to oversee the nascent British Broadcasting Corporation under the authority of the Crown.

That set the scene for much of the remainder of the post-war period, until around 1935 when the BBC began experiments with television broadcasts, initially using Baird’s 30-line system. By 1936, “High Definition” had already arrived – 405 lines versus the 240 of the Baird system used at that point.

The service wasn’t available for long, however, as service was interrupted by the breakout of World War II.

Once the War ended and stability returned, efforts to resume television service began. In July 1946, the TV License was introduced and TV Service resumed, with the BBC showing a Mickey Mouse cartoon (Mickey’s Gala Premiere) which had been the last programme aired prior to the shutdown of the service seven years earlier.

Three years later, the BBC Television service began to expand outside of London. This expansion continued, with the BBC maintaining its monopoly, for a number of years. Then, in 1955, Independent Television – commercial broadcasting – arrived. And the shape of British broadcasting was altered once more.

This was just the first of a rapidly accelerating number of paradigm shifts in British broadcasting over the coming decades. In the 60s, BBC2 and colour television arrived. In the 70s, Ceefax launches – a nascent foray into information services for the broadcast industry.

But things really changed in the 1980s. Channel 4 launched, bringing commercial broadcasting to the state-owned broadcasting slate, with a focus on exploring new ground with programming aimed at niches not catered to by the existing BBC/ITV Duopoly – most notably the rising “youth” movement of teens and young adults, an increasingly distinct set of demographics.

On top of this, satellite broadcasting went online, beginning an industry in premium TV which would eventually become one of the most important sectors of British broadcasting. Amazingly, it was only in this same decade that British networks began 24-hour broadcasting, which just serves to demonstrate the rapid pace of acceleration in British broadcasting’s evolution.

By the end of the 90s, Channel 5; Six TV and a plethora of premium channels like Sky 1 and the Disney Channel had become available to British audiences. Whilst some were unsuccessful (Six TV went defunct in 2009 after a troubled and highly limited run in its ten year lifetime) others, like Sky 1, remain dominant forces.

Into the 21st Century, analogue broadcasts – satellite, cable and over the air – began to cease. Freeview, Freesat, Sky and Virgin Media Television have battled for eyeballs, and all four have launched new HD services in 1080i. But a growing competitor in the form of the world wide web, born in the 90s, has begun eating into television’s market – both with original content on sites like YouTube and blip.tv and through on demand distribution of television programming through services like BBC iPlayer.

This is the scene as we look ahead to the future of British broadcasting.

The Future of British Broadcasting: A Vision
As it stands, British broadcasting is engaged in a massive-scale “war for eyeballs”, caused by the plethora of services demanding the attention of the public.

There is little chance that all these services can continue to co-exist. As a result, going forward, it is inconceivable that we will not begin to see ever-increasing instances of convergence amongst these services. Already, we have seen television broadcasters like the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, BSkyB and more make their programming available online.
Some, like the BBC and BSkyB even allow viewers to watch television live as it is broadcast over the web – and even on mobile phones.

The future of British broadcasting will be crafted in this image. Video content is platform-neutral at its most basic level. As a result, video services from one platform can be delivered on another platform with minimal additional effort. We are beginning to see this coming to fruition in the form of Internet-Enabled TV sets and devices powered by software like GoogleTV.

These products, which will become increasingly prevalent in the coming years, invert the move of television to the web by bringing the web to television sets. As a result, audiences are able to watch live transmissions or on demand content from the comfort of their living room, on their big screen, without additional effort on their part.

The secondary result of this will be the resurgence of independent and even semi-professional video producers. With internet video services – which offer a far more accessible platform for smaller producers – with equivalent prominence to conventional broadcasters on TVs, independents and semi-professional individuals will be able to reach a far wider audience than at present, radically increasing the viability of small producers.

One possible side-effect of this will be the collapse of the Government’s efforts to launch a new sixth terrestrial broadcaster. The new sixth channel is being pitched has having a localised remit, patterned after the US Networks system, where a national Network produces prime time, late-night, (in some cases) daytime and news programming and local stations broadcast it to small areas (Eg. Cities) along with locally produced content like the local news and weather. Note, ITV used to be organised in this way prior to a mass of station mergers which has rendered the ITV Regions system a nominal one only.

This focus on localised programming will likely have its audience consumed by independent efforts making use of the web. Already, services lie Portsmouthlive.tv are serving the same basic purpose – at very low cost – without the government’s backing.

Similarly, it is highly unlikely that the proliferation of channels (Hundreds broadcast in the UK at present) will continue. Indeed, it seems likely that the number of channels available to UK audiences will plummet over the next ten to twenty years as the niche markets catered to by satellite and cable begin to be eaten up by web services. These niche channels are by far the most vulnerable to being subsumed by the web, as their inherently smaller audiences mean it will be viable for users to stream video live far sooner because less bandwidth will be needed.

As bandwidth concerns are overcome, channels with ever-wider audiences will be able to move online. Theoretically, if enough bandwidth can be added to the UK’s internet infrastructure, every channel currently on the air could be broadcast via the web. But that is a long way in the future.

One other thing seems likely: 3DTV will not achieve truly widespread adoption. Whilst their is a market for 3D content, the inconveniences of the technology make it ill-suited to broadcasting as it is generally consumed. Studies in the UK (The Guardian Online, 2010) and the US (NTDaily, 2010) have shown that an increasing proportion of the audience – particularly amongst younger viewers – prefer to multitask whilst watching television. This means their attention is divided between a TV, perhaps a laptop computer and even a mobile phone. They are social networking and reading the news whilst they watch.

3D doesn’t fit in this lifestyle, as it requires concentration to work. So whilst it has a market in event programming like live sport and movies, particularly movie premieres, conventional programming is unlikely to move to 3D in a meaningful way.

Conclusion
Ultimately, it seems possible that in the future, there will be no Freeview, no Satellite and no cable – as we know it. Instead, broadcasting will be consumed via an online portal with access to all the channels and on demand content in one place and an interface which scales from small screens (mobile phones) through laptop screens all the way up to big screen TVs.

Additionally, this portal could integrate with social networking services, to tap into broadcasting’s role as a creator of shared experiences and converge it with the advent of modern day social media.

Bibliography
Wearden, G. (2010) The Guardian Online: Multi-tasking media consumption on rise among Britons, says Ofcom study. Retrieved 9 May 2011 fromhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/aug/19/multi-tasking-media-ofcom-study
Landry, N. (2010) NTDaily: Study shows increase in technology multitasking. Retrieved 9 May 2011 from http://www.ntdaily.com/?p=7975

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Christmas Letter 2010

Dear family; friends; casual acquaintances; people who I don’t know reading this online and Google Spiderbots,

It’s that time of the year again. You know? The most wonderful one. That one. Christmastime. Yeah? You probably noticed what with all the pretty lights and tinsel and goodwill to all men and sudden inexplicable rise in quality of television. Which also means it’s time for me to write my Christmas Letter, a tradition which – despite the protestations of many –  shows no signs of ending. You know? Like mince pies.

Now for some of you this is your first time receiving one of these letters, and some of you who have received one before have preposterously short atten…Oh hey look, a bunny rabbit!

Where was I? Oh right, explaining the letter.

Every year, I sit down and ask myself a simple question: “What kind of year has it been?”.

Then, in the letter, I ramble on and on, at times quite tediously, in answer. And because I’m a wacky goofball, I usually litter it with jokes. Mostly the stuff I didn’t have time to say in the year that was. Why? Because why the hell not, that’s why.

So anyway, let’s set about answering that question. What kind of year has it been? Well…A damned long one! I don’t know about you, but January 2010 feels like so long ago I can barely remember it. Maybe it’s the quite preposterous number of things which happened this year, or the way everything seems to have changed, or maybe it’s the fact I’m a Student and therefore have consumed what is surely a dangerous amount of alcohol.

No, just kidding folks. The only DANGEROUS amount of alcohol is none.

Just think, this time last year, me and many of my peers were waiting around for the sadistic system known as “UCAS” to let us know our fate. I was in College and almost all my friends were 17, which means there was no nightlife to speak of.

How times have changed.

And look at all the other stuff. This year, amongst the achievements to my name are, sleep (Drunk) in a Disneyland Paris Hotel bathroom; move to University; spend an hour on a stage telling my fellow College leavers how awesome we are; go to Prom with a date AND pass Year 13 whilst basically sleeping through most of the Exam period – thank YOU inexplicably high marks in January Exams*!

*Seriously, I have no idea why they were so high. I thought I’d failed them.

Yes, it’s been one hell of a year. A year in which I, repeatedly, discarded almost all of my hair and started reviewing drinks on the internet for…Some reason. You know now that I write that down, it seems even weirder…Still…Go watch those reviews…

Still, by far the most exciting part of the year was moving to Portsmouth where, to paraphrase a song, I’ve got some friends that I may hardly know, but we’ve had some times I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Man, I hate it when people pretend to be deep by using the lyrics of a song, don’t you? Doesn’t that just make you want to punch them in the face? Well please don’t do that, I’m still typing. It’s hard to type with broken glasses and a black eye you know. I speak from experience.

Also, some stuff happened in the wider world, but it’s mostly very depressing. But…Uh…Hey, Toy Story 3 came out. So it’s not all bad. Oh and they brought Golden Grahams back. Some of you have no idea why that’s amazing, but I assure you, it’s like the best thing that ever happened in the world of cereal.

You know, speaking of Toy Story 3, I saw a lot of good movies this year…So there you go, there’s some good news from the wider world. It was a good year for cinema.

Still reading? Good…A lot of people duck out after the second or third paragraph after they realise I’m just as annoying in writing as I am out loud. In return for your persistence, I have some happy news: IT”S SNOWING! I literally glanced at the window as I was writing this paragraph and it’s started snowing again! on Christmas Eve ! That’s in-freaking-credible!

Yeah, as you may be aware, I never grew up.

I’m still a kid at heart.

Anyway, I think I’ve taken up enough of your time now. Plus I want to get this sent at about Midday. So then…Have a Merry Christmas; Happy Holidays; Happy Hannukah; Kwazy Kwanza; Solemn, Dignified Ramadan and a Happy New Year.

Yours,
Paul Douglas

PS: Okay, NOW you can hit me.

PPS: OW! Hey, it wasn’t mandatory! Jeez.


The Final Stretch

Well today is the very last day of my Easter Holiday away from College. Tomorrow, it’s back to the Sawtry Community College for the home stretch. Three weeks this coming Thursday, I’m onstage wrapping up our official time at Sawtry with the SCC Sixth Form Leavers 2010 Final Assembly. I promise a show like no other. This is going to be one helluva spectacle folks.

A couple of weeks alter, on Friday the 28th of May, at Twenty-Five to One in the afternoon, my last ever lesson at Sawtry ends. After that, all I have there is four exams. The mind boggles that in less than six weeks, it’s all over. Seven years on, as by far the longest-lasting constant in my life outside of my immediate family, my time at SCC comes to an end. Naturally, that means I will have a lot of spare time for some three months. And that in turn means I’ll have more time to spend on doofy crap for this here website.

Then, it’s on to Uni. Which leads me neatly to the other thing which will take up my newfound spare time, the pursuit of money. Yes, it seems I’ll have to pick up at least a few days’ overtime each week as summer rolls around in order to build up a nice lump of spare money to spend on life in Pompey.

Man, writing this all down, it steal feels unreal. I am simultaneously overcome with amazement at how short the time left is and an overwhelming lack of comprehension of that fact.

It’s a weird time of life, you know? Everything’s basically done here but the closing number. We’ve got plans to end it all with a succession of show-stoppers though. The Final Assembly I’m putting together is an extravaganza. It’s a celebration, a variety show, a trip down memory lane, a massive pat on the back and more all crammed into an hour. I’m shooting for the full range of emotions. They’ll laugh, they’ll cry, they’ll cheer, they’ll be proud, they’ll be embarrassed, they’ll smile, they’ll cry & of course, they’ll smile. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. And I assure you, I take it very bloody seriously.

Then, a bunch of us are going to tear it up at a Theme Park for the day. Alton Towers is, I think, again the plan. And then we’ve got the End of Year Ball in early July. We call it a ball, but it’s being deliberately organised to allow us to go to the clubs & bars afterwards, so I’m, not certain “Ball” is the word. But it’s going to be one helluva party. Later that month, in a last hurrah before the exam results day, I’m off back to Disneyland Paris with some mates. Imagine the high spirits!

…And there it is again. I’m writing this partly to try and make it all sink in but…It just seems unreal to me.

Oh well, maybe it’ll sink in tomorrow when I hit the College. I’ve got a surprise for everyone which will be immediately apparent, and I have some unfinished business to take care of. It’s the home stretch, and it all kicks off in less than 15 hours. Here. We. Go.

Christmas Letter 2009

It’s that time again folks.

Yes, it’s the time of the year when, in lieu of sending Christmas cards (Because sitting and writing someone’s name then my name then someone’s name then my name over and over and over is the kind of thing which will eventually drive me over the edge and thus cause me to go on the psychopathic rampage which the majority of you are still expecting of me), I write out a long, winding look at the year that was and what lies ahead, with characteristic sarcasm and comical faux-hipness. Because I’m “like” “with it”. Er…”dawg”!

So then…To business!

Ah what a year it has been. For me, terrific. Wonderful things have happened over and over again (Green Day – the best band in the world seriously don’t even argue, turning 18, the computer I’m writing this on, Disneyland which is like heaven for me and of course a certain Mr. Jenson Button winning the World Championship).

But as with any year, 2009 has had it’s fair share of flaws. Yes, for every Barack Obama becoming President, there has been an unfortunate but inescapable Twilight Saga release. In the future, they will look back on years like this as the beginning of the zombie apocalypse which is still speeding on its way to destroying our world as we know it, presumably within the next 5 years.

For those of you about my age over here in the UK, this year has also probably begun your association with the most unspeakably horrific torture device known to man. Yes, I speak of UCAS, which dominates your life for months at a time stressing you out about filling in a form, getting Personal Statements & References written and all this as soon as humanly possible rush rush rush. Then it immediately turns into the most insufferable waiting game ever devised – it’s like an ironic punishment in hell, it taunts you for your previous desire to slow things down by going to the other extreme.

Cruel and unusual.

If you’re like me (To those very few of you, you have my sympathy) you mostly measure a year’s worth on the quality of the entertainment put out that year. On that front, New Moon aside, 2009 is a standout success. We’ve had brilliant movies like The Hangover, Role Models & Zombieland as well as amazing TV shows making their debuts (Such as FlashForward) or re-launching (The fantastic Scrubs Season 9 (Med School)).

In more good entertainment news, word reached us this year that Channel 4 will not be buying any more seasons of Big Brother, ending its run on the channel in 2010. Every reasonable person in the country is delighted by this news. In less welcome news, ITV (Continuing its downward spiral into being the most vulgar unappealingly cheap and tacky network on Television) has ordered more seasons of The X-Factor. Which means 2010 will be another year in which the Christmas Number 1 will go largely un-contested…

Eff you ITV. You ruin everything.

In the world of video games, Killzone 2 released this year and overshadowed all other First Person Shooters. Honestly can’t think of a single other significant one. None at all. Nope. Modern What 2? Never heard of it. It’s the biggest entertainment release of all time? Oh that Modern Warfare 2. Why didn’t you say so?

In more interesting video game news, The Beatles: Rock Band released this year, broadening the appeal of Rock Band-like games as well as of The Beatles’ superb music. As if Harmonix, makers of Rock Band, hadn’t done enough to make me love them, they recently announced that next year they will release another game. Green Day: Rock Band. Thereby immortalising my two favourite bands in their own games.

Less fortunate this year were those Activision guys. Tony Hawk: Ride is the punchline to every video game joke made from now until Project Natal releases.

On a more universal note, the economy has started to recover! That’s good!

But VAT in the UK is going back up. That’s bad.

But it’s not going up to 20%! That’s good!

But the Tories will probably put it up to 21% (That’s bad) as soon as they get in (That’s bad).

Potentially far worse news from the land of politics is that the BNP got into the European Parliament. Which is both a disgrace and nonsensical. How can a party who think anything and everyone from outside the UK is sub-human represent us in Europe? It’s a logical absurdity!

And on that note, we come to “Climategate”. I’m going to put this to rest once and for all: The world is getting warmer. We’re at least partly to blame through CO2 emissions. Get over it and help us start fixing it.

Jeez, is it that hard to stop burning things left and right?

So then, what lies ahead, in (As weirdos call it) The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Ten (Or as the hipsters call it “Twenty-Ten”)? Well how the hell should I know, I’m not psychic. I do however have some predictions for your amusement:

1) The Tories will win the General Election and ruin the country, but idiots will still claim things have improved.
2) A celebrity will die and the whole world will overreact.
3) Someone, somewhere, will have sex with somebody else. This will piss off a third party who will throw a hissy fit about it and/or go to the press.
4) A man will discover the Meaning of Life and start trying to tell people it. Nobody will listen.
5) Britain’s Got Talent will still suck.
6) The X-Factor will suck even more.
7) Twilight Saga: Eclipse will suck even more than James Cameron’s Avatar clearly does. Dan Berry will not notice due to his guy crush on Robert Pattinson/Taylor Lautner/Dan, seriously what the hell.
8) Kanye West will continue to be a douchebag.
9) Sarah Palin will, on at least 4 separate occasions in each case, fail to spell her own name or even the word “a” correctly.
10) I will write another Christmas letter.

Now, let’s see how my predictions form last year did:

1) Sky will stay blue (Correct!)
2) Music will continue to dominate culture (Correct!)
3) Economy will finally begin to rebound (Correct!)
4) Summer will be hot (Correct!)
5) Spring will suck just as much as ever (Correct!)
6) Someone, somewhere, will be inappropriately offended by something they know was not meant in that way – they will proceed to destroy someone’s career over it despite being aware they meant and caused no actual harm (At least half-correct!)

Wow! Maybe I am psychic! On that bombshell, I’m off to make a killing gambling on sporting events!

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and of course a Happy New Year!

Yours,
Paul “Jensonb” Douglas

Christmas Letter 2008

Oh, I guess it’s that time of year again.

You probably think I mean Christmas, but in fact you are but half-correct, half I say! I am referring to the (As of this year) annual custom where I waste the time of my friends and family with a pointlessly and arguably too-long letter reflecting on the past year, which this year means we have a lot to cover, and with any luck we’ll get some hilarious snarky comments in along the way.

Huzzah!

Ah, but what is it about this year that is most memorable? After all, so much has hap…Yeah, alright, the economy went down the proverbial crapper, nay the literary crapper. And that’s kind of a bummer. Money’s, like, useful. It can be exchanged for goods and services. And I don’t know about you, but I for one like goods and services. They’re great! But you know…Whatever. There’s more than one way to have a party!

Ignoring the fact that I had no idea where I was going with that metaphor when I wrote it, I shall move onto some good news. Bush is gone in a month. Obama is in in a month. For us Brits, that means we can finally stop hating the country which gives us such wonderful gifts as The Simpsons, Heroes, The Killers and Katy Perry.

Oh hey, speaking of music, Axl Rose (We get it Axl, it’s an anagram of an impure act. It’s not funny any more dude, get a real name) finally got around to releasing his album “Chinese Democracy”, the most expensive and also inappropriately attributed album ever recorded. I mean, honestly, “Guns ‘n’ Roses”? There’s more members of Guns ‘n’ Roses in Velvet Revolver! Perhaps Mr. Rose has difficulty moving on. So while your enjoying your wonderful Christmas, shed a tear for a washed-up old rock star whose latest record is rubbish and who can’t seem to move on I mean seriously what the hell get over it.

Ahem. Got a bit carried away there. Anywho, in other entertainment news, The Dark Knight came out, meaning we have been given something unheard of since before Tim Burton got kicked off the project: A good Batman sequel. If you don’t know what I’m getting at, go watch Batman & Robin, a movie so bad its star will personally reimburse you the cost of admission on request.

So I guess, actually, don’t watch it.

Now then, let us not forget that we almost did not get to see this Christmas. It seems a group of friendly nutcases near Geneva decided to build and activate the first Halo ri…I mean, the Large Hadron Collider. A device with potentially catastrophic consequences. Yes, our friends in Switzerland chose to risk sucking us all into a Black Hole. But the risk of being condensed to a singularity isn’t even the worst bit. We’d have had to die in Switzerland…That’s so boring! They’re neutrals! It’s neither a hateable place or one you’d love! Never mind though, because we seem to have escaped the worst of it.

Huzzah!

In fact, some people are trying to save the world to make up for it! That and, you know, white liberal guilt. Yes, Bill Gates has decided to dedicate himself to philanthropy. Damn does that man want a Nobel or what? Well whatever, good luck to him. Lot these days makes you think the world’s headed downhill, good work should be applauded. So, uh, yeah. Woo for the world’s charity even in what’s tastefully not being called a Depression.

But it is.

But we don’t call it that.

Cos it seems less dramatic if we call it a “Crunch”.

Or a “downturn”.

It’s like how we don’t call it Global Warming or the Melting of the Polar Ice Caps, we call it “Climate Change”.

But I digress. Man has it been a fast year or what? I swear it was only a matter of weeks ago I was gearing up for GCSE exams, and yet it was many months ago. I’ve long since passed and joined the madhouse that is Sixth Form and yet, it still seems like no time has passed at all. Nevertheless, so much has happened it’s hard to remember most of it.

Hmm…Oh, I got a Mac. Which is nice…Let’s see…Important things we haven’t covered yet…Um…I hear Canadia has had its government shut down by their Prime Minister. Something about protecting his job and right-wing policies from the left-wing will of the people. So, uh, sucks to be them I s’pose…Oh, speaking of Governance, Mr. Brown saw fit to drop our VAT! Yes, I know it’s only till the end of 2009, still nice though. Bloody Tories inflated it so much. Honestly. Anywho, props to Mr. Brown for that. He is good godammit. Stop reading the Red Tops! These are the same journalists who tell you which public figure is involved in which sex scandal!

I mean, what the heck kind of political knowledge can they have if that is what became of their lives.

Oh, hang on though, speaking of sex scandals, Screws of the World totally got Max Mosley. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.

Hmm, I was just looking over the list of Christmas Number One contenders…I mean…Wow. It’s like actual musicians don’t even I want to beat X Factor phonies any more. Where are the proper Christmas-themed songs? I mean, there’s a few there, but they’re mostly covers and/or likely to be the same dreary pseudo-joyous “Christmas” junk we’ve had to make do with for nearly two decades now!

Someone release a new Merry Xmas Everybody, please! A proper, 21st Century Christmas rocker.

And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the X Factor. The era of manufactured music must end! Open your ey…EARS people!

Erm, excuse me. Got a bit carried away there. So, what will the new year bring us? Well, if I knew that, I would be aiming to make a killing at the Bookies and on the Stock Market (They’re having their 35 Years-ly Blowout Sale by the way!). So since I have no idea, I can but guess…Let’s see…Predictions and aims for the new year…2009…Two Thousand and Nine…Hmmm…

Sky will stay blue; music will continue to dominate culture; the economy will finally begin to rebound; summer will be hot; spring will suck just as much as ever and someone, somewhere, will be inappropriately offended by something they know was not meant in that way – they will proceed to destroy someone’s career over it despite being aware they meant and caused no actual harm.

Yeah, I guess most of those are cop outs, the summer one’s just wishful thinking. Yes, you read that right. So then, aims…

Hmm…Seems like I should be more decisive and also stop, you know, thinking in text…I mean, it’s text. If I need to think of something why don’t I just stop writing until I have? I mean, the way I’m doing it’s just weird, right? Well, anyway, those and probably something about expressing love. That sort of thing always goes down well. So, yeah. Hmm, actually that reminds me of something…

Yes, I’ve checked. Mistletoe’s white things are, indeed, berries. Also it’s a poisonous parasite.

We humans chose some odd symbols for love.

Anyway, I’ve kept you long enough. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

Yours,
Paul “Jensonb” Douglas

PS: I just noticed this letter’s almost twice as long as the first one.

PPS: I want to make it clear, that I think that is all the way awesome.

PPPS: So there.

Son of Rambugh

So we went to the cinema earlier on a Media Studies Trip. British Cinema was the name of the day (Indeed, that was the theme of the festival they were running…I think anyway, it wasn’t exactly heavily publicised).

The movie? Son of Rambow. Wow. I would never have imagined a film with such an off the wall, bonkers plot could be so hopelessly formulaic. Writer-Director Garth Jennings seemed to have a passable idea, but he singularly failed to deliver on it, never mind turn it into something worthwhile.

Great directors can take a serviceable plot and make a classic (Examples might include Jaws for Spielberg, Star Wars for Lucas and Sleepy Hollow for Burton). Okay directors can take serviceable ideas and make acceptable movies (The Superman Series springs to mind). Awful directors do this.

So apart from being formulaic what’s wrong with Rambow? Well, the whole exercise is simplistic. Jennings seems content to point his camera with all the eye for framing and excitement of his characters – in whose defense, are children. Jennings takes no risks and makes liberal use of filming cliches. It’s pretty bleak.

It doesn’t help that the whole thing seems kind of pointless. It feels like Mr. Jennings is trying to make a touchy-feely piece. But when almost all his characters are male and most of the few whoa re not are either contemptible or asexual, the whole thing comes across as rather odd. Not even gay, which would be somewhat interesting. It’s a movie about friendship…But none of the friendships make much sense.

Why’s that? Leaps of logic. Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban suffered similar problems, but was at least well made to make up for it. Here, the way the lead is rather blindly lead by his eventual friend makes little sense.

Less sensical is the fact that he befriends the guy in the first place. The two are utterly incompatible. Well, actually, they only start that way. Lee, who starts out as a jerk and a bully, suddenly becomes a victim and a sympathetic figure.

It’s a device used throughout the film – even paradoxically. For example we learn that Lee’s brother is nasty to him. But then we learn that Lee’s mother causes him no end of problems. So that’s two instances of passing the blame.

Jennings manages to paint about 7 characters as villains. Of them, 3 are redeemed with deus ex machina (This is particularly true of the out-of-place French boy Didier – and if you want to know why he’s out of place, it’s not cos he’s French, it’s because he’s a product of the modern era, not the film’s setting). Another 2 villains are minor characters with maybe 4 speaking parts between them.

Ultimately, by the end of the movie, you’ve seen everything coming from the first few moments of exposure to the various characters. It’s a snooze-fest and it doesn’t help that few of the characters are endearing. You like them well enough in some ways, but you won’t come out caring what happens to them after the film.

Nor will you care much about anything the film says or does. Notably, some of the messages the film tries to send are debunkings of old-fashioned ideals which seem ridiculous even by being mentioned, which makes the whole movie seem a trifle pointless.

Son of Rambow has some pretty good jokes in it, but ultimately it falls flat.