Archives for category: Media

Note to self: next April 1st, set alarm for 6.55am rather than customary 7.30am. This way, I might manage to miss stories like this one in the Guardian, which, post the midday GMT jokes-cutoff-time, conveniently lists all the April Fools jokes I was going to have 12 seconds of fun trying to spot in the Sun, Telegraph, Metro and so on.

They also helpfully list the one about 3D radio on the Today programme, if I hadn’t stopped listening to that within seconds of arriving in the States. Once upon a time, I was addicted to the Today programme. Very effective way to jolt yourself out of sleep, the public school-hazing-induced fury of John Humphrys. These days, I get the cheery Soterios Johnson, who I can contentedly doze with for an hour until my radio switches itself off.

Problem is, the British media just really goes for this April Fools stuff in a way that the American print media is far too serious for. Read the rest of this entry »


I know I’m one to talk, seeing as it’s nearly two years since hit pause on this blog without a goodbye. (Hey, I’m still in New York, and much to my own surprise, I am still culture shocked.)

But what’s with all the reruns? Why, in the middle of every TV series, is it OK to just chuck on an old episode (of Glee, say, like tonight’s rerun of last November’s sectionals episode), without so much as a warning? If it’s because they need to catch up with the shooting schedule, do they really only work that out on the night itself?

Because here’s what happens: you curl up on the sofa, ready to shut down higher brain function for an hour with the latest Grey’s Anatomy/House/Bones/Good Wife etc, and what do you get? Disappointment. And then, if you’re me, you get a bit cross. Read the rest of this entry »

Seriously, I know that obviously he didn’t write this himself, but this is comedy gold:

Hard to pick a favourite line, but the one about Dick Cheney’s memoirs (How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People) comes pretty high up the list. Or maybe it’s the one about completing his next 100 days in 72. And then on the 73rd, he’ll rest. Or maybe it’s the one about Hillary coming back from Mexico and giving him a kiss.

Anyone who watched the West Wing knows that American politics is full to the rafters with zillions of rituals and customs that even the European political systems, centuries more in the making, don’t even dent. But the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where the press and media come to be feted with comedy speeches by the President and others, is a particular favourite of mine.

Forget Gordon Brown or David Cameron – is there even a single member of the British political classes who could deliver their lines this well? We’ve got one of the most combative parlimentary systems in the world (Prime Minister’s Questions shocks Americans), but for a British politician to take such obvious pleasure in puncturing their own image… I can’t imagine it for an instant.

A Rod takes a swing (thats Madonnas steroid-loving former squeeze to you)

A Rod takes a swing (that's Madonna's steroid-loving former squeeze to you)

This week, we went to see the New York Yankees play, er, no wait it’s coming to me, the Tampa Bay… Rays. Anyway, off we go on the B train all the way up the enormous new stadium in the Bronx, and here’s me expecting to find tons of material for this blog, but what do I get? Almost no surprises at all.

Because if you’ve seen any American telly or movies at all, hardly any of it comes as news. From Sex and the City, I know it’s all about drinking beer rather than watching a game. From Seinfeld and When Harry Met Sally, I know about the hot dog and popcorn sellers who come to your seat. And from every baseball movie I ever watched as a kid (Major League, Field of Dreams and that one with Susan Sarandon), I remember the little organ jingles they play when you’re sitting around waiting for something, anything, to happen.

(Not being a big sports fan, I wasn’t prepared for everyone to stand up at the beginning, Yankee cap on heart, and sing the national anthem. I stood, out of peer pressure, but self-consciously put my hands in my pockets, out of Britishness.)

One surreal ritual I didn’t know about? At one point during the game, when the guys come out to rake the grit smooth, the sound system chirps up with YMCA, and at each chorus, the rakers pause to do the dance. And everyone loves it. They also love the big screen instructions to clap in time to other bits of music, and no one seems to mind the unending advertising in every pause in the game. When you stop noticing the ads, it’s all over, right?

There are many excellent reasons to live in America. There are also many uniquely British things you come to miss. Like intelligent, serious news, that occasionally deigns to present, say, the Palestinian’s point of view. Or maybe anything that’s happening outside of the USA and Israel.

That is why we pay an extra $20 a month to get cable TV, which is the only way you can get BBC News America here.

But disastrously, it’s presented by the smuggest man your brain could conjure up: Matt Frei, that gorgeous creature pictured above. He is incapable of resisting a cheap quip, right in the middle of a serious debate. He is, in short, an egomaniac, and one who thinks he’s miles above the competition. Mention his name to any Brit (or Irish) expat in this country and I guarantee that they will start spitting with rage.

Might John Humphrys like a transfer to Washington? Please?

While the UK gets itself all aflutter over the arrival of Google’s Street View, over on this side of the pond, that kind of surveillance is pretty near enshrined in the Constitution.

America being the land of the pioneer, they are hugely enthusiastic early adopters of any kind of technology (bar texting, which took a while to catch on here). And nowhere more so than with the neighbourhood blogs. (Yes, I know, pot, kettle.) Where people used to talk to their neighbours over the garden fence, now they comment on their neighbour’s blog. Or blog about it on their own.

The local supermarket has its own blog. Even our block has its own webpage and newsgroup. And believe me when I tell you there is never any news for the newsgroup, only people asking for babysitter recommendations.

In my neck of the woods, there are new blogs continually sprouting up, but I already have a favourite, even if it’s not exactly a blog, more the pet project of a very enthusiastic amateur meteorologist. The Current Weather In Park Slope features astoundingly complicated and up-to-the-minute data on an area that really, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t need its own weather forecast. But even so, not only does it have the forecast, it also has a speeded-up, time-lapse video of the sky over the previous 34 hours. Perversely addictive, strangely reassuring…

This time last week, it was all feeling a little bit anti-climactic. He’d fluffed the oath, the speech had been a bit of a letdown, and the dancing, while cute, was not quite as good as it could have been.

But the bigger problem was this: now that Barack Obama was finally in the Oval Office, what were we going to do with all that news time? When I voiced my fears about this very situation a few months ago, a fellow Brit expat suggested I get into local politics. I believe I may have scoffed.

How wrong I was. While Barack sets about saving the environment, closing Guantanamo and generally being a goody-two-shoes (yawn), it’s the local politicians who are having all the fun.

Step forward Rod Blagojevich and David Paterson. The former: the foul-mouthed, bushy haired Illinois governor who allegedly tried to sell or trade the Senate seat left open by Obama. Yesterday Blago went on a publicity tour that took in all the most important news media outlets: Larry King, Good Morning America, er, and The View, which is the American version of the UK’s Loose Women. Exactly.

David Paterson, meanwhile, is the governor of New York State, also in need of a new senator now Hillary Clinton is playing with the big boys. (Some background: Paterson got his job after the previous incumbent, Eliot Spitzer, was caught using call girls. See what I’m talking about?)

Paterson decides its important to hire a woman to replace a woman, so ums and ahs over the very liberal Caroline Kennedy for aaaages, before settling on Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat endorsed by the National Rifle Association. (No, me neither.)

See? Brilliant. Boris Johnson has nothing on these people.

‘I wish they’d stop going on and on about the clothes,’ said my friend Amanda when we were watching the Inauguration on her sofa. So, apologies to her, and to other non-fashion-obsessed readers, but weren’t Michelle’s clothes great?

Mrs Obama might have an underbite that makes her look permanently like she’s about to smack her husband around the head, but she knows clothes. As Barack very cutely put it when they arrived at the first of 10 parties, ‘First of all, how good looking is my wife?’ Michelle was clearly not really paying attention, because she applauded for a second before realising everyone else was applauding her.

Good on her for choosing two relative unknown designers for her two outfits of the day (Jason Wu and Isabel Toledo), and for dressing the kids in high street (J Crew).

But much as I’m into the clothes, I’m not sure I take fashion as seriously as the new administration: according to a rumour leaked to Fashion Week Daily, the editor of US Vogue, Anna Wintour, is in line for a job as ambassador to Britain or France. Her qualification? Does throwing a great party and scaring the bejesus out of the whole industry count? Her office is denying it, and weirdly, every link Google throws up seems to lead to a page that’s been taken down, so if you’re reading this Ms Wintour, I think you’d be brilliant. Or stay at Vogue. Either is fine. Please don’t sue me.

So there I am, having my afternoon cuppa with the second half of Dr Phil, when a plane crashes into the Hudson river.

Instantly, America’s best swing into action. Hundreds of dedicated, highly trained operatives race to the scene by chopper, SUV or even on foot, prepared to do anything they can… to get the story. Yes, that’s right. Because in an emergency, America does what it does best: it goes to rolling news.

Every channel on TV instantly started talking nonsense. First, they’re telling us it might be a film set. Really, people? Really? On what planet could Hollywood crash a life-size plane into a major city’s waterway?

Then we get a succession of breathless reporters phoning in their lack of information (“the plane has now sunk completely into the water,” blathered one, when in fact it was just behind a boat). Meanwhile, back in the studio, the anchors were giving us insight we couldn’t possibly have worked out for ourselves (“it’s got to be cold in that water, I hope they haven’t got too wet”).

Obviously I was gripped.

But already, they’ve moved on to more serious matters. This morning, Len Goodman is on breakfast TV judging past presidents’ Inauguration dance performances. Bush Snr gets a 7 (“lacks content”), while Bill Clinton is “far too loose in the upper body”. And some might say the lower.