Remembering Michael Jackson

Times MJ cover 26/06/09For our generation it is perhaps comparable to the death of Elvis Presley in 1977. In years to come our children might ask where we were when we heard that Michael Jackson had died as he did at age 50 in California yesterday afternoon.

Jackson was, quite simply, a musical genius. He had a voice, a musical style, and a stage performance like no other artist that came before him or has come since him.

He may also have been a paedophile. This cannot be ignored because he has died but nor cannot it be allowed to dominate his obituaries because not only has it never been proven beyond doubt but it would overshadow a man who became a musical legend.

So how do we remember him? Should we remember the boy who was the adorable face of The Jackson 5? The man who was behind the best selling album of all time, Thriller? The performer who gave us the moonwalk and who was still able to sell out the 02 arena in minutes for 50 concert dates due to begin in a matter of weeks?

Or should we remember him as “Wacko Jacko” whose Neverland ranch was a sordid children’s funfair where allegations regarding his behaviour with children emanated from, who adopoted a chimpanzee and called him Bubbles, who dangled his baby out of a hotel balcony and whose face became literally and totally unrecognisable from what it once was?

We should probably remember all of this but history may ultimately highlight only the good things about Jackson. After all, ask your parents about Elvis Presley and they probably won’t mention the health problems and the drug abuse but the man who changed the face of rock ‘n’ roll forever.

Michael Jackson changed the face of pop music forever, a genius but a very flawed man. But then again aren’t all geniuses supposed to be flawed?


The future of football fanzines

Last year myself and a course mate at LJMU, Nick Kelly, looked at what future there was for football fanzines in light of the growing popularity of football supporters websites, forums, Facebook groups and so on.

Being based in a football mad city we spoke to fans of both Liverpool and Everton. Some were part of the fanzine heyday of the 1990s, some we’re trying to make the breakthrough in these more competitive times and some were from the forums, websites and Facebook groups that are not only providing a constant distraction from the day time job to football fans up and down the country but are threatening the future of the traditional football fanzine.

The resulting article has now been published at Click Liverpool, a relatively new Liverpool based news site that is giving the other major online news outlets in the city, Liverpool Echo and Liverpool Daily Post, a run for their money.

I’ll also be blogging for Click Liverpool on my South African adventures so keep visiting!

A stolen election, but where’s the proof?


I’ve watched with great curiosity the coverage of the Iranian elections and their aftermath in recent days waiting for a report that actually outlines just how, where and why the election result might have been stolen.

And yet the lack of this has left me with major doubts about the legitimacy of the protests in Tehran and cities across the Islamic Republic.

Clearly the crackdown on protesting is not legitimate when people are dying as a result. From the Tweet-ing, Facebook-ing and YouTube-ing the extent of the government’s lockdown on communications and intimidation of their people is clear and it is not right.

The US and Britain are right to condemn the conduct of the Iranian government in this regard but they are also right to refrain from passing judgement on the actual election result because the truth is, there appears to be no hard evidence to contradict the official results which gave victory to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Now I am not naive enough to believe that Ahmadinejad won two-thirds of the vote as the official results state. A journalist friend of mine who visited Iran earlier in the year was struck by the amount of young people who had a real desire for change and Ahmadinejad was not as popular in his own country as he had us believe.

However his anti-American, anti-Israel rhetoric did have unquestionable support in many circles so his approval ratings cannot have been at George W Bush levels.

The truth is the election result was probably much tighter but whether it gave victory to Ahmadinejad or his main rival, the ‘defeated’ Mir Hossein Mousavi is just not clear.

There has been a great acclaim for the power of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in getting across the material major news outlets are finding it increasingly harder to gather themselves thanks to the meddling of the Iranian Interior Ministry.

But if angry voters are so keen to show the world what’s going in their country right now why aren’t they showing us the proof of voter intimidation, vote rigging, stolen ballot boxes or all three? In an election where 85% of the 70 million population turned out to vote surely there are some if not many who can testify to dodgy practices?

The hugely influential Guardian Council say they are investigating 646 complaints from the three defeated candidates, Mousavi among them, and they will hear their arguments at the weekend.

I’m intrigued to hear what these arguments are and what proof will be presented to back them up because at he moment the lack of hard evidence regarding these elections is as stunning as pictures like this one:


South Africa and going back to Ireland

At the beginning of next month I embark on what I hope will be the journey of a lifetime. I’m spending a month in Cape Town, South Africa working at a local and popular newspaper called the Daily Voice, adding another string to my journalism bow and visiting a part of the world I have always been deeply interested in.

Traveling is something I did a lot as a kid with my parents but I haven’t yet done the backpacking/inter-railing jaunt. While this is not student traveling of a conventional sort it is an incredible opportunity to see a truly beautiful and very different part of the world and hopefully gain unconventional but ultimately rewarding journalistic experience.

Most of my sporadic blogs have focused on mainstream, public interest issues (sadly, there’s probably more public interest in Susan Boyle than in the BNP) but whilst in South Africa I hope to regularly update you on my exploits both professionally and personally, giving you an insight into a naive student journalists adventures in the big bad world.

Beforehand I’m going home to Ireland for a week. My country has been affected worse than most by the recession. The good times were good in Ireland but now the bad times are very bad indeed.

We have government whose incompetency is on a different level to the UK (hard though that may be to believe) and whose response to the recession was not to increase consumer confidence by cutting prices as they did here in the UK with the VAT rate cut but actually raise them in order to raise the money they wasted so frivelously when times were better.

Like Labour, the leading party, Fianna Fail have been in power for twelve years, and like Gordon Brown, Taoiseach Brian Cowen took over from a far more popular predecessor.

However, unlike Labour, Fianna Fail have consumed a previously progressive and lively Green Party, who entered into a promising coalition with them in 2007 but have since seen their standing in Irish politics almost totally obliterated, a great shame but an example of the poisonous nature of Fianna Fail whose standing in Irish politics has never been as low as it is now.

But aside from politics, whenever I go home now the country I left two years ago is almost totally different, a collective gloom has descended on the nation. It’s as noticeable on the busy streets of Dublin as it is in the town of Athy where I am from. Businesses shutting down everyday, a rising unemployment rate and a lot of young people who have only ever known economic growth and general good times.

Now they and the rest of the population face a real test of their resolve to see whether the country can re-emerge and prosper once more. I really hope it can because it’s not much fun going home any more aside from getting to see me mammy!

The importance of stopping the BNP

There is a certain amount of exaggeration surrounding the ascension of the BNP to the European Parliament. On Sunday night they won two seats, one in the North West where party leader Nick Griffin was triumphant and the other in Yorkshire & Humberside where Andrew Brons was elected.

First of all, they are two MEPs out of 785 in a parliament that is known to be of little use other than to debate legislation that is really decided on by the European Commission and the Council of Ministers.

We are not in the midst of Nazi Germany in the 1930s but nor, as a fellow blogger pointed out, must we rest easy. There is a fight to be had after the failure of the fight to deny them a place in mainstream politics.

The BNP received fewer votes this time around than they did in 2004 yet they gained two seats. This has to do largely with the collapse of the Labour vote following the MPs expenses scandal, the general mire that the governing party finds itself in and yet another low turnout for an election which is in itself awfully sad.

Millions of people died fighting the very fascists the BNP like to praise to protect our right to democracy, flawed thought it maybe, and we throw it back in their faces by not even bothering on election day.

Many people I speak to who dont vote say they don’t know enough to go out and vote for someone but surely they know enough to know that voting for a racist party isn’t a particularly good idea. Had these people gone out and voted the success of the BNP might have been prevented.

It must be made clear that beyond the spin the BNP are a fascist party despite their attempts to hide the tattoos, grow out the hair and dress up in smart suits. If we are to examine the expenses of our MPs with such scrutiny should we not also examine the past of these two MEPs, party leader Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons? It is a very dark past indeed.

Both are ex-members of the National Front, an organisation that is racist to the core. Griffin is on record as denying the holocaust amongst many other abominable statements. Brons is a former member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, an organisation set up on honour of Adolf Hitler.

Griffin has said that using what he calls saleable words such as “freedom, security, identity, democracy” can cleverly disguise the party’s real intention which is to get themselves in control of the British broadcasting media to a point where they can change the minds of the British people who might then say that “every last one must go,” referring to immigrants in this country. These words were spoken to a group of David Duke supporters, that is David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

These are not good people.

I tend to think that some of those who voted for the BNP aren’t actually racist, just plain ignorant and stupid enough to fall for the spin of Griffin and his thugs particularly when confidence in the mainstream political parties is at its lowest ebb. But one wonders now how our two fascist representatives in Europe will fare with the taxpayer’s money?

The BNPs political manifesto will come under the kind of scrutiny that it has never before been subjected too. The fact the party does not allow black people to join means that when hiring staff for its European offices they will surely be liable to violation of basic employment laws as The Guardian pointed out this morning.

It’s the kind of scrutiny which will hopefully see the BNP fall on their sword, their manifesto exposed for all its hypocrisy and stupidity but we cannot become complacent. Complacency is what has allowed Griffin and Brons to take their seats in Brussels as representatives of this country. They are racists representing Britain to the whole of Europe and that is a very sad thing indeed.

The sadness of Boyle in BGT aftermath

The aftermath of Britain’s Got Talent or BGT as it is now to be forever known (and going on the ratings for this season it really could go on forever) has perhaps been more eventful than the show’s finale itself.

This morning Susan Boyle checked into The Priory, the home of celebrities with issues or ”exhaustion” in Boyle’s case.

It has been said more than once that here in Britain we love to build someone up only so we can knock them back down again and that is no more true then in the case of poor Boyle in the week leading up to her defeat to the marvelous Diversity last Saturday night.

And in the aftermath the grim reality that awaits the lonely Boyle once she emerges from her spell in recovery has been revealed as she is ferried from pillar to post to satisfy the needs of Simon Cowell and his insatiable appetite to turn raw talent into money makers.

Except Boyle is not raw talent, she is troubled talent. A person whose learning difficulties and loneliness for much of her life have left her very vulnerable to the extreme dangers of being a world reknowned star as she now is, like it or not.

The best thing for Boyle is not to fast track her from the sheer madness of BGT to the show’s tour circuit to the solo album to a likely worldwide tour. Instead let her return to her home, her family, and her dear cat in West Lothian. Let her live the normal life she needs to live for the next few months in order to recover from a period in her life she could never have imagined nor did any of we when we were first introduced to her.

Let Diversity take all the limelight, their incredible performances deserve it and let Boyle rest, recuperate and in a few months perhaps she can return.

She is troubled person, a vulnerable person and she needs time to recover in order for herself and the rest of the world to appreciate her amazing talent.