» Life ¦ What You Can Get Away With

The competition, apparently.

The competition, apparently.

Apparently, there’s a market – and someone at the Guardian reckons it’s at least 18 strong – for a ‘masterclass’ on live blogging at a cost of £99 for three hours.

I look at that and think ‘who is this Stuart Heritage?’ Does he have the extensive knowledge and experience of blogging that has made him the eighth most influential blogger on the subject of ‘other’? He clearly does not. Has he been nominated for a Blog of the Year award only when the field from which nominees are selected has shrunk dramatically? He hasn’t. Was he featured in print in The Blog Digest 2007? He wasn’t, but yet he still feels he can charge a quite large sum of money to those wanting to receive his blogging experience.

Well, if there’s money for old rope going around, never let it be said that I wasn’t willing to do a half-arsed job and throw something together in an attempt to get a little bit of that cash for myself. Here’s my full day seminar in the things you’ll need to know to be a political blogger as successful, influential and well-regarded as I am.

10am: Welcome, Introductions and Getting To Know You In which I spend at least ten minutes looking at a list of names, counting heads in the room and saying ‘we’ll just give the stragglers a couple of minutes’ before getting started on reading out this schedule to you, as though you’ve never seen it before. Following that, I’ll ask you all to introduce yourselves, figuring that as you’ve all come to an event about how to get other people to read your opinions, you’ll easily fill an hour between you bigging up your own self-importance and getting into pointless arguments.

11am: The basics of blogging In which I ignore the fact that all the attendees already have blogs and tell you how to start a blog, including a ridiculously detailed PowerPoint presentation on signing up for WordPress. (Note: This will be the only part of the course where I have anything resembling notes and a plan and am not desperately winging it)

11.45am: Developing your own complex and detailed political opinions: The amount of time we devote to this subject will reflect its importance in creating an interesting and well-read blog.

11.50am: Who needs opinions when columnists can have them for you? Includes important lessons on how to get newspaper pundits to tweet a link to the post in which you bravely agree with whatever they wrote that morning.

12.30: Lunch (not included in price). Attendees will be given the opportunity to learn more of the secrets of blogging if they buy me food and drink at a nearby pub.

2pm: The @loveandgarbage guide to live blogging: Special guest tutor Love And Garbage (invited, but not confirmed at time of going to press), author of many live blogs including ‘Is it snowing outside?’, ‘Is there snow outside?’ and ‘Snow’ will explain all the intricacies of this special form of blogging. As an acknowledged master of digital communication, Love And Garbage’s lessons are not to be missed (attendance still not confirmed at this time).

3pm: How to be a success at political blogging: This session will help turn you into a top class political blogger. Topics covered will include:

  • How to cherry pick polls to prove your point
  • The conventional wisdom: Isn’t the true bravery in standing up for it, not challenging it?
  • Telling people just what they want to hear – and getting them to share it
  • Building an audience through the use of partisan factoids
  • Speaking truth to power: How to tell the powerful they’re looking really good, are completely right about everything and do they have any jobs available?
  • (Some of these topics will be covered in greater depth on our full-day ‘How To Work For A Think Tank’ course – 10% discounts available to everyone who completes the blogging masterclass!)
    All topics will be covered by way of me improvising wildly based on half-completed PowerPoint presentations, and attempting to stoke arguments amongst attendees in the hopes that’ll fill some time.

    4.30pm: Close and Conclusions A chance for me to make many of the same points again, then fill more of your time by asking you all to tell us what you’ve learned on the course. Please feel free to tell us all in great detail how it’s proved you’re right about everything.

    Following the event, the tutor will retire to a nearby pub, where you will be invited to buy him drinks in the hope of learning more of my wisdom of blogging.

    The details: Attendance is just £5.50 per person, though Ryanair-style additional charges may be made for extras such as having a seat or being in the actual room where the masterclass is taking place. Location TBC, but likely to end up being whichever coffee shop has the comfiest seats and staff who are least likely to throw us out for hogging space and not buying anything. Attendees should expect to bring their own laptops, tablets, chargers, power sources and ideas to the course as none will be supplied. All guest tutors are unconfirmed at this time, and may be replaced by whoever responds to a desperate plea for help on Twitter on the morning of the event. All attendees will be given the right to design and print their own certificate of attendance. Tutors reserve the right to be more interested in browsing social media than teaching the course. All timings are subject to change, especially for the afternoon after the pub. No refunds.

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    It's the mockbuster version of this, basically.

    It’s the mockbuster version of this, basically.

    The Pitch: So, there’s this blogger, yeah? He’s been doing it for a while and still getting ideas for things to write about, but he refuses to learn lessons from his past. So, despite his recurrent failure to keep themed series of posts going, he decides to create a new one, telling himself it’ll be different this time, that he’s sure to be able to get inspiration, and it’s only one post once a week. Surely he can manage that?

    Inevitably, things go wrong, and he finds himself one weekend completely devoid of inspiration. Rather than admitting his own failure, he strikes on a last desperate plan: surely inspiration will return in the next week, so all he needs is something, anything to fill the gap this week. That’s how he ends up plunging into the world of metafiction, making this week’s post entirely about his inability to come up with a post in the hope that someone, somewhere will be hugely impressed by a gambit that might have been interesting twenty years ago but is now pretty hackneyed and dated.

    The ending comes rather surprisingly when he realises that he can’t even come up with a punchline, so things just sort of stop rather than concluding.

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    headtransplantThere’s been lots of coverage in the last day for the proposed first human head transplant, which an Italian surgeon thinks he could perform in 2017. Now, I know next to nothing about the medical aspects of it and if it’s even remotely possible, but I do wonder about the term ‘head transplant’.

    For me, the term transplant refers to the part that’s being replaced from the perspective of the individual receiving the surgery. So if I was to have a heart transplant, I’d receive a new heart, for a kidney transplant I’d receive a new kidney etc

    So, for a ‘head transplant’ to take place, I’d have to receive a new head. The question is, assuming we’re talking about a whole head (brain include), could I receive a new head and still be me? If my head was taken off and replaced with someone else’s, would the resulting creation be me, or the person who supplied the head? Likewise, if my head was then put onto their body, would what resulted be me or them?

    It seems to me that while it doesn’t make for as dramatic a headline, what we really ought to be referring to here is body transplants, as the person that results from the surgery would surely be regarded as the individual who provided the head, not the one who provided the body. In the same way that I remain me if I’ve given a heart transplant, and am not regarded as the person who donated the heart, surely the same must apply for this sort of transplant, and we should be referring to it as a body transplant, not a head transplant?

    (And yes, there are all sorts of further issues about your head being linked to someone else’s body, but for now I’ll leave those to the real philosophers and psychologists)

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    "an exclaimation of annoyance, exasperation, rage or other negative factor or to expel anger, disgust, disappointment"

    “an exclaimation of annoyance, exasperation, rage or other negative factor or to expel anger, disgust, disappointment”

    The Pitch: It’s the early days of Twitter, and someone’s had an idea for a parody account. Surely, nothing could be more amusing than a right-wing Tory MEP who continually misunderstands things, gets his facts wrong and continually blusters and insists he’s right regardless? So, our protagonist creates the account, and finds the perfect picture to illustrate it in an illustrated dictionary’s image for ‘harrumph’. The account – called Roger Helmer MEP – begins to pick up an appreciative audience

    Soon, though, our protagonist discovers that someone, or something, else is posting to the Twitter account and it’s even more in character than he’s ever managed. Curiously, he also starts to notice references to things that Roger has supposedly done in the news, and gradually he begins to realise that not only has his parody Twitter account developed sentience, it has begun to manifest itself into the real world. Soon, a person claiming to be the real Roger is giving speeches in the European Parliament and having an impact in politics, culminating in him breaking free of his creator by defecting from the Tories to UKIP (which, the film implies, may be yet another parody that’s gone too far). Now completely free of his creator’s control, can anything stop Roger Helmer?

    The Cast:
    Roger Helmer: A CGIed version of Geoffrey Palmer from Fairly Secret Army
    Roger’s creator: Craig Roberts
    Nigel Farage: Chris Morris

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    1) It’s like Sherlock, only set in Victorian times

    A spectre is haunting Europe’s criminals – the spectre of Karl Marx, Consulting Detective!
    Abandoning political philosophy, Marx and Engels decide to use their considerable intellects to solve crime instead. Each week, they’re brought in to solve a crime that has left the police baffled, and are able to solve it, by explaining that the crime was an inevitable result of living in a capitalist society and the bourgeoisie as a whole are responsible.

    “Revolutionary, my dear Engels!”

    2) #clickbaitcommunism

    “Karl, we like your manifesto, but all these long sentences and paragraphs are a bit nineteenth century, yeah? Could you Buzzfeed it up a bit?”

    Eight Spectres That Are Haunting Europe
    How Workers Everywhere Are Throwing Off Their Chains Using This One Weird Trick
    Are You A Member Of The Proletariat? Find Out With This Test

    Now, if someone’s got a time machine I can borrow, I’m pretty sure I can get at least one of these onto That Mitchell And Webb Look.

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    Let’s suppose for the purposes of this argument that either social media as we know it existed in the 1970s, or the events I’m about to describe happened now.

    In 1978, Larry Flynt (the publisher of Hustler magazine, amongst other things) was shot by a racist who was offended by something that Flynt had published. To be specific, it was pornographic images of a black man and a white woman together, which the racist shooter was offended by and wanted to kill Flynt because of it.

    Flynt’s pictures were legal and depicted two consenting adults. Given that they offended a racist to such an extent that he tried to kill Flynt for exercising his right of free speech, would you share the pictures on social media to show solidarity with him?

    (For the avoidance of doubt: the murders of the staff of Charlie Hebdo were an outrage and no one anywhere should be killed, assaulted or threatened for using their right to free speech)

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    selfdrivingI was at an LGA event yesterday on traffic and transport, and one of the subjects discussed during the day was future transport infrastructure, specifically in the context of driverless cars. It helped to crystalliza a few thoughts I’ve had on the subject, and also confirmed that other people have some thoughts in a similar direction so I’m not completely off the beaten track. I want to elaborate on a few of those thoughts, partly just to capture them, but also to see if they can spark any sort of debate or thoughts from others on the subject.

    Read the rest of this entry

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