Friday, January 19, 2007
I have come to the conclusion that there are good psychologists, who are naturally good at judging and dealing with the way people think, and bad psychologists, who have to study it at University. The former think nothing of their talent, assume it’s a normal ability and use it in everyday life. The latter cannot do this, and instead have to use what they’ve learned by taking a psychology-related job that recognises their newly-found “skills”.
The result of this situation is that psychology-related jobs draw not on talent, but solely on skill. So no wonder the ability of psychologists, when occasional studies emerge into the public eye, seem so pathetic to the rest of us. Skill applies standard procedures to all possible tasks. But what use is this when everyone's different? Surely, in practice, the best method is to be innovative. Learning - that is, research into previous work - should only be the starting point in becoming a successful psychologist. The other 90% should be realising that no-one knows much about the human mind, and coming up with one's own theories, not endlessly reusing those of other people. So what use is a degree in such an area as psychology that only tests for the first small bit, when in practise it's the rest that matters?
The consequence of this stupid state of affairs is obvious - it only serves to degradate the quality of the work of these so-called psychologists. For example, I draw your attention to this piece of genius (see link):
Women find men more attractive if they see other women admiring them, a study has suggested.
Psychologists discovered that a man was judged more desirable by a woman if she saw her peers using positive facial expressions, such as smiling.
Previous research indicated that facial attractiveness was based on personal taste and types of person.
But Aberdeen University's Face Research Laboratory found facial expressions of others could influence attractiveness.
In other words, they found that “women are attracted to popular men.” Another world-beater from the world of psychology. Society will be ever so much richer for that pearl of wisdom. In fact, not only have they found something that the rest of us knew already: Oh no, it gets worse. Later on, the same article mentions this:
Dr Ben Jones, who led the project, said: […] "It is really the first time that a phenomenon called social learning - where we learn by what other people think or do - has been shown to influence attractiveness.
No, “Dr.” Jones, it’s the first time that psychologists like you have realised that “social learning” (as you call it) has been shown to influence attractiveness. The rest of us were way ahead of you, I’m afraid.
From reading articles like this, it’s like looking into the world of a bunch of degenerates who don’t have the skills in life to pick up facts of life like the rest of us, but who we should applaud for trying out of kindness because it isn’t their fault that they don't know otherwise. If it weren’t for the fact that this work was publicly funded, I’d pity them for wasting so much time and energy.
Another thing: “Face Research Laboratory”? So we have a publicly funded laboratory that thinks of something to study, gets a load of people in a room and records their facial expressions, and then notes down any trends. Is this even in the least bit useful to society? Is it not something that we do in our everyday lives without thinking about it, because we don’t need to think about it? Is it not something that anyone could do, let alone a group of people arrogant enough to call themselves “psychologists” who are paid to do it?
There is only one way of using empirical evidence to discover and substantiate claims about psychology: by observation. The psychologist’s way is to gather a group of people into a controlled environment and perform experiments on them, experiments of which the group is aware. Everyone else’s way is to see and talk with people in their natural environment – friends at the pub, people in the street, the family at home – and learn about how they think that way instead. Which is better: an artificially created situation where people will inevitably react similarly artificially, or a natural situation where everyone is reacting in a real environment? It doesn’t take to much observing to realise that the general public has a better approach to it all than so-called psychologists.
Perhaps the most famous consequence of quantum mechanics is that observing a photon alters the state of that photon, and, consequently, that one can never know what the photon was up to (its velocity) prior to the observation. There are lessons to be learned here by “psychologists” about observing people in controlled environments. Yet it’s obvious to the rest of us. Perhaps we should found a psychological journal for so-called “psychologists”, written by people who do not call themselves psychologists. I think the first article will be about the common-sense fact that if you control the way people act, then that might just invalidate studies into the way people act.
The thing is, we are all psychologists. We are all experts in human minds, because not only do we have human minds, we observe others with them too. We all have our own theories about how the mind works, regardless of whether we are aware of our theories, because they are necessary in order to help us to get along with people in everyday life. Our theories are just as relevant as any of those invented by those who call themselves psychologists, because none can be proven and all of them can be supported by observations. So if we’re all psychologists at heart, those that call themselves psychologists must really be arrogant in order to think that the rest of us are not capable of doing their jobs.God bless the psychologists – just let them be, making their irrelevant and often incorrect conclusions. And perhaps the human resource managers, as well, for similar reasons to those discussed. As for the rest of us, lets continue to observe human behaviour in our own way and use what we naturally learn in a meaningful way. After all, it’s all just common sense, surely?
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The Question, “Can God create a rock He can't lift?”
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
What a crap idea the government has had to ease congestion by allowing people to drive on the hard shoulder (see link). Have they forgotten that the hard shoulder is there for a good reason? Now, even if you’re parked on the hard shoulder for a reason that isn’t a dire emergency, you’ll certain be sucked into one when someone smacks into the back of you. Imagine how terrifying it’s going to be when you’re parked there and cars are continually driving up to you at what are clearly going to be far greater speeds than the imposed 50mph limit, and then changing lanes last minute.
Which brings me to the second reason why it’s a crap idea. Congestion is caused by traffic waves. The general idea of traffic waves goes like this:
- Someone slows down or changes lane.
- The person behind slows down more than necessary to compensate, chiefly because they were driving too closely and are reacting out of shock.
- The next person behind slows down even more than that, again due to a tendency towards overcompensating, and so on.
And thus traffic slows down and gets more congested. A way of looking at another reason for congestion is this: If you increase the thickness of a wire, then its current will meet with increased resistance and power will be wasted. Similarly, if you have more lanes, the traffic won’t necessarily go faster, because people will have more of a tendency to change lanes and slow the traffic down (again due to traffic waves).
This problem will increase massively when the hard shoulder is used as a lane. All it takes is one broken down car on there, and the entire lane becomes a pile-up. Even worse, the lane to its right will become jammed as people constantly try to pull onto it to get out of the pile-up, and the lane to the right of that will become jammed for the same reasons, and so on.
Those who have broken down and need to move onto the hard shoulder as soon as possible will have a terrible time trying to find a gap. No-one will want to let you in, because they know that they’ll have to slow down or stop and change lanes. In times where there’s mass congestion, when few people are likely to let you pull into their lane, that’s the last thing you want to face.
The hard shoulder, as I’ve said, will have an official speed limit of 50mph. Why? If it’s a lane safe enough to be used as one of the other lanes – that is, if it’s wide enough and there’s no debris – then it should be used in the same way as other lanes. Otherwise, don’t use it as a normal lane.For those using the hard shoulder and obeying the speed limit, it’s perpetually very difficult to get into the next lane due to having to pick up speed first. By the time they have, the gap (if there is one) has gone. For those disobeying the speed limit, it gets more dangerous because there might be broken down cars in front of them and there’s little time to react and stop. Either way, it’s a crap, dangerous and terrifying idea to use the hard shoulder for normal traffic.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Pop music, n. A symptom of the inevitable degeneration of the art of music that results from the rise of music as a commodity and the fall in the wealth, and thus interest, of musical ideas worth exploring.
“Pop music” is the soap opera of the music world. At the top of the music tree you have the recognised geniuses that were so influential they changed the course of music and allowed it to explore other meaningful areas, resulting in entire ages – the Baroque, the Classical and the Impressionist, for example. Then you get the ones in between – the composers who explore these established areas and enhance the age by imprinting their own slant, or style. Then come the “lesser” composers, those who emulate the greats and write influential and effective but nevertheless watered down and less imaginative and innovative works, such as modern “classical” and film music.
Then, at the bottom of the pile, you get pop artists – people who know little about musical forms, but know a lot about what sells to the masses and makes the most money. The vast majority of it is churned out for a few months and then forgotten by those masses. It is throw-away music on demand.
But since when have “the masses” ever been right? Judging something as popular has never been a successful benchmark in determining whether it is good. Just look at EastEnders.
Sure, laud them for tricking an audience that gets what it deserves. But don’t blinker people to the point that they don’t even bother to examine what higher pleasures there are in the more major examples of music as an art. The three main problems here are as follows:
- The saturation of the music market with relative crap. Here, people think they have a lot of choice, but in fact they are bombarded with many slightly different examples of the same thing. (Thanks for this point go to Richard Stead, who aptly and succintly describes it as "rediculous choice.") Pop music, regardless of how many pitiful and petty genres there may be, is just a menial exploration of the massive treasure-trove of ideas that music has to offer.
- The destruction of decent music education. At least since as far back as when I was at school, music has been taught in a way that makes it come across as dull, stuffy, old-fashioned and boring. Children are taught the same old dull pieces, and as a result people grow up with the stigma that all “classical” music is the same old dull crap.
- The fact that kids are brainwashed into listening to pop music (and not listening to other forms of music), because pop music is cool and (therefore) because of peer pressure.
The problem is perpetual, because adults who grow up to listen to shallow pop music are not likely to introduce their children to anything better. In fact, most pop fans don’t realise that they’ve yet to live, that there is far more music to the cliché recordings of the more boring works of Mozart and Johann Strauss and the glorified karaoke that is pop music.
Imagine this happening in the visual arts. Imagine that the only contact with paintings that people have is the same old boring, black-and-white, generic-looking prints of bygone painters. Their authors might be brilliant, and their fame justified. But if everyone is exposed to limited works, and no one is taught why their works are important to the art, then you can only expect people to turn away from what those works stand for. For younger people - and now, in a world of ever-increasing vanity, older people too - paintings would become uncool.
But there is money in every art, because it is a medium of expression capable of being desirable to people. So, now imagine that entrepreneurs realise the money potential and produce the sort of pretentious, cheap, shallow, abstract tat on display in the lobbies of hotel chains. People would accept these prints as brilliant in comparison. Their attention would be drawn because they look so much better than the boring prints, which are the only things that they can use as a comparator. Soon, the entrepreneurs move in, clever advertising brainwashes the nation, the tat becomes cool and thus very desirable, the entrepreneurs make their money as the masses blindly buy away.
The reason why the above scenario does not happen to visual art, and why so few are capable of putting pop music in context and realising how trivial it is, is this: People are exposed to many stimulating paintings, statues and monuments. Everywhere you look there are free galleries, buildings of different architectural styles and cheap prints of famous pieces. The “wonders of the world” – which are all visual – are preached constantly through TV programmes. Every time you go on holiday you’re likely to come into contact with visual works of art.
On the other hand, you can’t see proper music, it is rarely advertised to a wide and general audience, and it usually costs a lot to go and see live. You don’t see classical concerts on holiday, and any local music is designed to give a flavour of the culture rather than to show you how good the music is. There is no exposure, either for children or adults.
Of course, nowadays, a good “classical” concert can be cheaper than a pop concert. There are the BBC Proms, and “classical” music is almost always cheaper than pop music in the music store. But it’s all too late: People don’t buy (into) it because they don’t know why they should bother. There are two many barriers, most notably social and educational. They are denied access to a wealth of higher pleasures simply because of the ignorance of the person. On the other hand, pop music is everywhere – on the TV and radio, in the music magazines and on the news (usually because a singer has been arrested). It seems that everyone’s talking about it.
An orchestra and a musical genius can say more than you ever could with two guitars, a drum, a singer and a group of mates that come together in a garage. It is a fallacy to believe that, if you provide enough opportunities for people to make music, then the art of music will benefit. All that happens is that the music industry gets flooded.
When a culture is stable (without extreme situations like war and mass hardship) for a while, it gets complacent, and with this it devolves. Similarly, when a culture comes out of an extreme situation, it is kick-started into a flurry of creative activities. “There’s nothing like a good war to give culture a kick-start,” said a colleague of mine, Richard Stead.
Well, he’s right. And we’re seeing the polar opposite of this situation now, in music. There hasn’t been hardship of any kind in order to create the tension, anxiety and emotional extremes necessary to produce great works, and so the great works have given rise to shallow tat. The best music of modern times exists as a servant to the film, where musical devices are reused to death almost to the point of cliché to portray musically the major scenes of box-office films. Even here, evidence can be seen of the superiority of “classical” forms of music over pop music: If Pop is so good, why is it not used in films to portray high drama and suspense as much as orchestral music is?
Another reason why music has gone downhill is that the ideas worth exploring have already been explored. It's all been done. The best pop music can do is repackage these ideas in what appears to be new - that is, in new formats. The band that perhaps most closely provides cutting-edge pop music is The Divine Comedy, although Neil Hannon and Joby Talbot can be regarded more as classical composers than Pop-song makers due to their techniques, musical training and use of orchestral insruments.
Consequently, musical ideas within the Pop world are not only thin on the ground, they’re getting thinner. This can be seen in the pop world’s use of gimmicks that are irrelevant to the music they’re put to. Videos, loud drum beats and lyrics serve either to take attention off the shallowness and lack of quality of the music, or to make up for a lack of musical content. All gimmicks do is show Pop music up for what it is. Good music need never have any gimmicks; it will speak for itself on its own. Examples of gimmicks in Pop music are numerous, and here are some of them:
- Shouting, swearing and using stupid voices (such as those used in so-called “death metal”)
- Using sex to attract attention (such as in music videos, lyrics and sound effects)
- Using deliberately provocative themes in music videos and lyrics, such as murder, drugs and rape
- Giving so-called “genres” of pop music pretentious, over-hyped titles such as “euphoria,” “hardcore” and “heavy metal”
- Similarly, overhyping musical titles with self-flattering words such as “essential”
- Having a lead singer with a false but distinctive, provocative and clearly invented character
Not that its audience is capable of seeing any of this. If they actually bothered listening – genuinely listening – to a broad range of proper music, then they might actually find that it’s pretty good. It takes time to appreciate good music. They’d sooner ignore and ridicule it instead, and they’re allowed to do so because covertly it’s socially encouraged. They’re as closed-minded as those devout religious nutters who denounce all other faiths, even though they know nothing about those other faiths.
The best music is capable of telling a story with the music itself – in the melody and the structure – without any of the faff that comes with Pop music. That gimmicks are routine is testament to the fact that Pop has nothing relevant to say. Remove the lyrics, the over-the-top, hyper-cool drum beats and rhythms, the videos and the hype, and what you have left is what any given piece of music – if, in some cases, it can be called music – is worth. (In the case of Pop music, the end result is very little. In the case of rap as a definition, there is no music at all - more about this later.) After all, how can a music-maker be a master of his art if he doesn’t even know how to commit something to manuscript, compose in a number of time signatures, deal with more than a couple of simultaneous harmonies or write for more than one or two instruments?
The musical rules of the vast majority of Pop are overly restrictive, and unnecessarily so. But this is deliberate – it’s an excuse to do put in less effort. Why bother enhancing the art of music, when merely broadening it sells well enough? It goes back to what I said earlier, about why providing more opportunities does not necessarily yield better music.
On another point, a problem is pop music’s perpetual popularity and coolness. Why would people, as a mass movement, listen to anything else? The crowd goes with the crowd, and to do so is comfortable, easy and convenient. Pop music sounds nice and thus requires no thought, and it is widely socially acceptable. Why destabilise a comfortable situation?
The answer is that, while Pop might be convenient to its fans, more advanced forms offer much more. They give inspiration. They have the capability of conveying ideas in more depth, are rich in innovation and ideas, and are awe-inspiring to listen to considering the work that goes into them. The best composers can re-represent images in music – Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote, or variation 11 of Rachmaninov’s Paganini rhapsody – and use tricks of sound to convey the most tragic and exhilarating of emotions.
All Pop music does at its best is to use instruments unusual to Pop and apply them to Pop music, to use strong language to gain attention by pathetic means, or to use musical devices that are new to the Pop music world but were old hat centuries ago to composers of finer music. Compared to a half-decent piano concerto, a pop song is a piss in the park. Gone are the decades of training at musical academies, not because they’re no longer conducive to producing the best music but because they’re no longer needed to sell records and they're no longer a priority of the Public. People have been brainwashed into listening to watered-down crap, they like it because they don’t know any other, and neither producer nor consumer thus complains. The consumers are happily blinkered, and the producers are happily lining their pockets. What a wonderful equilibrium.
From a technical point of view, Pop music is tat. All composers throughout time have written music in the general form it takes today in Pop – by writing songs, which consists of musical themes with lyrics. But they had the good sense to acknowledge that this was hardly the be-all-and-end-all of music. Instead of restraining themselves to an unnecessarily tedious and restrictive form, they used a wide variety of instruments and themes, produced comprehensive pieces of music that spanned far longer than a pitiful three minutes, and contributed much more to music than Pop ever will. The music of Muse sets the latest Pop precedent, because its song-writers have studied the great musical forms and incorporate them into their own music to give them richness and newness not seen in pop music before. Perhaps pivotally, their melodies are predominantly developed from playing around on a piano, rather than on a guitar. Yet even these innovations were already explored centuries ago. Once again, it might be new for Pop, but it’s old hat to music as a whole. In the case of Muse, it seems that the vast majority of the musical influence comes from the first movement of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2. (Compare the chorus melody of "Space Dementia" on the album Origin of Symmetry, the piano riff in "Butterflies and Hurricanes" on the album Absolution, and parts of the melody in "Rule by Secrecy" on the same album). Most of the other ideas by Muse simply incorporate semitonal key signature shifts, simple tonic triads and arpeggios.
There is a common conception that the definition of music is a pleasant sound. If you ask me, that’s utter crap. Music is a progressive melody, a story written in sounds that augment the story. Anything else – beats and rhythms being notable examples – are merely parts of music, things that augment the story. So, in fact, if you ask me, rap “music” isn’t music at all. I don’t care whether or not rap music is an attempt to convey genuine emotions and ghetto hardships, it still ain’t music. At its core, it’s just some words loosely spoken in time to a beat. Rap is, at its heart, poetry; what it has got to do with music, I have no idea. As far as musical excellence goes, it doesn’t fare too well – in fact, it’s hard to think of anything more primitive. It isn’t that I’m knocking tribal cultures in the Amazon that use drums and words as the only components of their “music”. Such pieces aren’t written to be good, they’re written to serve a specific purpose, such as in religious and shamanic rituals. The tribes themselves would not claim that it is good music in itself, if they understood music in context.
Music demands the most from writers, performers and listeners. Back at the other end of the spectrum, Pop music is formulaic to the point of ridicule. This is why there are so many genres. The more genres there are, the less free the music in each genre is likely to be, because it is more strictly defined. This is a travesty for musical variety. Here are the ingredients of the ultimate pop song:
- Cool yet unoriginal drum-beat. Let’s face it, there are only so many beat styles you can do with a drum, so you can’t do anything original here.
- Cool yet unoriginal rhythm, improvised from the drum-beat.
- One guitar that plays the melody (if any), and optionally another guitar that is played either two or five tones lower.
- A sequence of four base notes.
- A main theme or melody, which is an improvisation of the base sequence.
- A short, punchy and repetitive chorus.
- Lyrics that are based on sex but claim to be about love, string together sayings and clichés, and/or make no sense at all.
The method is equally simple: Get the beat and rhythm going throughout. Keep the guitars as simple as possible, repeating the same short sequence endlessly. Alternate the main theme/melody and chorus endlessly, with no variation. Repeat the four base notes endlessly. For the lyrics, choose words that have long vowel sounds. Sing the vowels slowly and in an exaggerated way to make it sound more interesting. Use cool instruments that people accept not because they enhance music but simply because they’re cool and expected.
It really is that formulaic. All you need to do is choose a pop “genre” and exploit it by reusing the devices that that genre offers. It doesn’t matter whether you create something new. (For an excellent case study of formulaic use of chords, listen to anything by Oasis. For lyrics that string together sayings and clichés, listen to Coldplay. For nonsensical lyrics, listen to Muse.) The creation of John Peel Day makes me laugh: How many of the acts he introduced have gone on to revolutionise, redefine or significantly enhance music? Or even, for that matter, Pop music?All of this brings me, with much evidence, to my main argument: Pop music is by its very nature crap compared to “classical” (orchestral?) music because, while the latter contributes to the enhancement of music itself, the former merely exists to make money, pander to the masses and flatter the egos of the performers. The only ultimate and meaningful goal of any art should be to enhance that art – to give it interesting new directions that redefine what it is and how it is perceived. It is organic. Pop music has, instead, made it stale. Its protagonists staunchly adhere to the philosophy “we’re making money as it is, we’re getting what we want and we’re getting the attention that we crave. Why change it?”
You can tell good music just by closing your eyes and listening. You can tell brilliant music by studying the notes on the manuscript. Both these methods of appreciation give no haven to musical pretense, hype and general crap, and they allow you to see what is truly left behind - if there is anything left at all.
Monday, September 04, 2006
What a load of stuffy crap classical music is. It belongs to an earlier era. It is largely the preserve of the pompous and pretentious. You only have to look at the stuffy academics, the rich fat upper-class and the dangerously old who go to classical concerts in order to get an idea of what it’s like. Given the other, more popular and more prevalent forms of music out there, why bother with it? Classical music takes a long time to get into, while you can get as much as you want straight away from pop music. Where’s the fun in having to try hard studying music, when all you want to do is listen to it? It defeats the object.
Of course, there are those that point to new forms of classical music, such as film music. It isn’t dead, they say, it’s still going strong. This supposedly proves that classical music still has a place in the world, and that it must service its purpose well, otherwise other forms of music would by now have taken its place. But to these people, I say this: Film music is designed to augment films, not to be listened to in its own right. This hardly lends support towards the music itself.
They say that classical music has more depth, can convey stories with greater emotion and is written by geniuses who know more about musical forms than is the case with pop music.
Perhaps so. But most music that you will ever buy will be listened to once. By that, I mean that the first time is when you really listen to it. After that, it’s just played in the background while you go and do something else. If music is listened to in this way – as it usually is – then why do you need music that has any more depth? You just want it to sound good. This way, it serves its purpose of relaxing and entertaining on the first listen and being good background music to half-listen to thereafter. As for “stories with greater emotion”: anything that can be said in classical music can be said in the form of words – namely, lyrics. Besides, there is plenty of good pop music that conveys a good story; it just takes time to experiment with music a bit and filter out the crap. It doesn’t matter how genial someone is, if it fulfils the above objectives then it does its job.Pop music even gives us additional benefits that “classical” music doesn’t have. It is classified into genres that are meaningful to us, which help us to choose our own musical tastes. There are those who prefer R&B, those who prefer dance and electronica. If you stick to albums and artists under these specific headings, then you generally know what to expect and you probably won’t be disappointed. Similarly, music is an art, and as such it cannot be described nor quantified in terms of being better or worse. Instead, it should be judged on how it makes you feel.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
People who Cough Unnecessarily Loudly at Concerts
Coughing is a fact of life. Everyone coughs. Sometimes you cough and it’s so sudden you can’t help making a noise. Sometimes you cough and the world coughs with you – it catches on. But there is one thing that I can’t stand, which can be avoided: there exist multitudes of incessant crap-heads who engage in serial coughing at concerts when everyone else is quiet.
If you know you’ve got a cough, you can prepare and counter for it. And – here’s the apparently difficult part – you should counter for it. It goes beyond politeness and courtesy. To serial cough unnecessarily loudly is depriving people of the ability to listen to the concert and of reducing their ability to concentrate and absorb themselves into the music, as well as making it difficult for the orchestra.
It’s simple: As soon as you’re about to cough, cover or close your mouth. Before the concert starts, they should put the obvious and patronising but nevertheless necessary notice, “Please serial-cough quietly” alongside “Please switch off your mobile phone.” And they could also add “…or we’ll shut you up on your behalf.”If I yelled every five minutes in a live orchestral concert, I’d get thrown out. And rightly so. So why aren’t the serial coughers?
Thursday, August 17, 2006
What a load of crap BBC News is. Whether it’s the TV or the online version, they’ve got it all wrong. All the news services are just as bad as each other; the BBC is only one example of the many I could have used.
In a relatively recent shift, the BBC has taken to using emotion to convey stories. While the appeal is obvious, it’s just plain wrong. The news should always be as impartial as possible. A news reporter should not prejudice the delivery of the news with intonation that conveys opinion, be it the BBC’s or the reporter’s. Frankly, I’m surprised they’re allowed to do it, since it is obviously going to make a huge impact on how people perceive the story. The watchers should be allowed to make up their own minds about an event from the facts conveyed, not have a ready-made opinion baby-fed to them by a news report phrased like a soap opera.
Who is a mere news reporter to tell the audience what it should be afraid, happy, unhappy or concerned about? To some extent, the news services cannot avoid this – the very act of choosing which stories to put onto the programme inherently brings with it an amount of bias. But it should be avoided as much as possible, as was the case decades ago when newsreaders used a neutral voice when delivering news articles.
This is a symptom, no doubt, of the perception that people don’t want to think for themselves – and perhaps in this perception they’re right. But that does not give the BBC the right to do what in effect is dumbing down. Enough of that goes on as it is.
Anyway, the BBC should not chase ratings. After all, not needing a big viewership is the only edge it has against the competitors. So why should it judge itself by these criteria?
Another thing that bothers me is what I call the “missing ‘is’ syndrome.” Here’s an example from the BBC News Web site:
“This from the White House transcript:”
(makes no sense at all in standard English) when it should be:
“This is from the White House transcript:”
The former is not a sentence, and just sounds stupid. The latter is proper English, and it’s also less confusing. One of the Iraq reporters started using it, and now everyone across BBC News is in on the act. Presumably they think it sounds cool, professional, authoritative and attractive to audiences. But as it doesn’t add anything meaningful to the story or the delivery, there’s no valid point to it at all.
The online version of BBC News is even worse. For a start, grammar mistakes are rife. This sounds trivial, but a small grammar mistake could change the entire context of the story to far worse an extent than conveying an emotion could. Let’s take a real example:
In other words, if the record is not broken, then the Guinness World Records team will not decide. The correct sentence would be, “…whether the record has been broken.”
This is a more minor example, but imagine its impact on a more important story. And another thing is the misleading titles it uses. Of course, I understand that titles have to be concise so that they are easily digestible and fit on the page neatly. But conciseness is one thing; being misleading is another. Consider this head-turner:
says the headline. The story, in actual fact, does not say that Cardiff is the UK’s most costly place. They can’t even be forgiven for using the title’s single quotes, because it is still wrong. Instead, the story states that, according to a survey, people have less money to spend in Cardiff than the rest of the UK. This is due to low wages relative to the cost of living in Cardiff, not high prices relative to the UK. If a Londoner went to Cardiff, he might even find it quite cheap by comparison. Surely the following:
"Cost of Living in Cardiff ‘Highest in UK’"
would be more accurate, and it’s still a short headline.
This is a good example of one of the many blatant attempts to get people to open a Web page, so that they can get more page views – which is no better than the methods employed by spam e-mail, mail shots and other underhand adverts. It’s just the BBC trying to prove that it’s popular by increasing the readership statistics. But popularity should not be a goal. Quality should. People do not naturally pursue quality – that is why the Sun is the UK’s best-selling daily newspaper (if we’re to believe Wikipedia). So this is a bad way of trying to measure success, even if quality is their genuine goal. There it goes again, trying to pursue indicators and statistics to things that don’t really matter.
And to make things worse, and speaking, as I was, of being “easily digestible,” the BBC also has a tradition of using long, complicated sentences. For example:
Why not just say the same thing like as follows?
“The boy is reportedly from Penrith in Cumbria. However, he is thought to have run away from a care home in Birkenhead, Merseyside. He was heading to Lisbon.”
The gripes are endless. The following is a list of the many other common goofs on the BBC Web site recently, although many of them will likely be corrected by the time you visit the site (ionce. I’m sure this list will grow over time:
- Net reviewing body renews US links
In July 2006, an official from the US Department of Commerce said it was still "committed" to turning Icann into a private organisation. Some suspected this might have happened on 30 September 2006 when Icann's current contract to run the net's addressing systems expired.
Do the BBC run a Time Service, whereby the future BBC relays messages to the past?
- Blair faces wave of resignationsTony Blair lashes out as seven junior government members quit over his refusal to name an exit date.
Does the BBC honestly think that "lashes out" constitutes fair, unbiased, factual news, rather than the outspoken hyperbole we expect from the gutter press? And while we're on the subject:
- The most powerful vice-president ever?The rapport between interviewer and interviewee suggests that they knew very well what they were talking about.
If something is suggested, then it is irrelevant to say "knew very well". He might not have known "very well", as the report admits by using the word "suggests." There is no reason to use such emotive language except to give an unfair bias in one direction, which is not what a news report should be giving.
- Hardy's cottage to be rented outThis is a blatant lie. As the news article itself points out, this is only "one of the options" that the National Trust (which runs the property) is proposing, and nothing has yet been