Tuesday 24 April 2012

Shakespeare and Murdoch

In the week of Shakespeare's birthday and the Murdochs' summons to Leveson, I can't help spotting similarities between the stories of King Lear and King Rupert. In the 21st century version the Regan and Goneril roles are taken by James and Rebecca. Cordelia is of course Elisabeth. Perhaps this week's hearings will be the old king's storm raging. And the fool? Well now we have several -- the so called "leaders" who paid homage at court and danced to the old king's tunes.

Saturday 21 April 2012

Nation building in East Africa

I am off to Kenya next week for the Nation Media Group AGM and Q1 board meeting. It has been a good year for the Group, with 2011 turnover in excess of 11 billion KSh and healthy profits. The annual report is here, the eagle eyed among you can see a very small version of the Terry Morris "smart" portrait (that got a lot of hits on this blog) in the Directors' profiles.
I only write this because good news from Africa, especially about African business success, tends not to reach our media.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Bags for Life

Easter afforded me some time to review my collection of "Bags for Life". At a usage rate of one per day, I calculate that I have enough to last until I am 87. They may well see out my mortal span. I have bags for life.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

One to Catch

Sky Atlantic is showing Game Change, the HBO Sarah Palin film, soon. I saw it recently in the US and can highly recommend -- it's like a turbocharged version of The West Wing. Julianne Moore is uncanny in her portrayal and Woody Harrelson is brilliant. The scene where Moore watches Tina Fey's impersonation is hilarious.

The real Sarah Palin (if such a thing exists) has been slagging it off. She should be grateful. Moore adds a lot of empathy to the role and comes across as a 3-D human, something that Palin herself has so far failed to do despite all the exposure.

If you want drama, excitement and "jeopardy" forget  BBC One's abysmal The Voice and go for the story of the Palin meltdown.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Atlanta 2

The last time I was in Atlanta, about 12 years ago, I had the ignominious experience of being pelted with chimpanzee shit by said creatures. I was visiting the world famous primate research institute at the university where they study the intelligence and behaviour of our genetic near cousins. I guess the shit slinging just went to prove how bright they are, a display of boredom or protest at their incarceration.

Anyway this month's visit had no such scatalogical overtones - save perhaps my references to to Zabbleen pig ordure in the debate.

Atlanta may not be top of most European visitors' must-see list in the USA, but it is a friendly, well-run and unpretentious city, well worth exploring. As my time was limited I went first to the Georgia Aquarium -- the world's largest. It is an amazing place. The huge tanks are home to sea life that you would need to travel the world and dive to see any other way. Most impressive for me the family of whale sharks, living along with manta rays, sawfish and plenty of other warm water sharks.

My only complaint was with the Hollywood music blasted out to "enrich" the awesomness of it all.

The it was onto the High Gallery, an hidden gem of a place.

Beautiful new building housing some very fine American art and furniture and a rather second division collection of old European pictures. The great treat though was its hosting of the Picasso to Warhol show, very impressive. Also tucked away on the top floor a beautifully displayed collection of Anish Kapoor.

Well done Atlanta and particular praise to the city fathers for a great metro system -- clean, fast and cheap.  

Atlanta 1

Georgia Tech, home this year of the ICTD conference is every inch the modern higher education outfit. Smart and new, well behaved clean-cut students and its confident PR operation leaves no-one in any doubt that it is the pace to be. Well it was for the very enjoyable and slightly anarchic CTO special sessions on social media and democracy which I took part in.

The morning was devoted to a debate on the role of social media in recent democracy movements -- the middle east. I spoke against, along with Al Jazeera's Senior Washington Correspondent Alan Fisher. I am no social media luddite but I wanted to "hold on a bit". There were lots of factors at play -- demographics, the global economy, religion, and the political backgrounds of individual countries. To call what happened in Egypt, for example, the "Facebook Revolution" is to ignore all of these. After all revolutions are won by people not technology platforms. But it was a fun and lively debate, streamed and tweeted about with a worldwide audience.

In the afternoon I led a workshop that looked at other historical movements where an emerging technology may or may not have played a pivotal role -- Luther and the printing press, the Bolsheviks and trans-European railways, Nazis and the cinema. The group was truly international and all the perspectives were really enlightening.