Category Archives: Media

Loneliness linked to phantom cigarettes

By Calvin Palmer

Today’s online edition of The Guardian features an article about the loneliness epidemic sweeping the UK.

The article stresses the health risks associated with loneliness and cites a report that states loneliness is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

That assertion is linked to an article in the Mail Online, which proclaims social isolation is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic, according to research by Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, of Brigham Young University in Utah and data obtained from 300,000 people.

Alas, the Mail Online article does not specify just how loneliness can be equated with smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And why is it 15 cigarettes instead of say 10 or five?

Is there a body of knowledge that can precisely show the effects on a person’s health of each cigarette smoked on a daily basis?

And what if a person is lonely and smokes 15 cigarettes a day, does that mean they are effectively smoking 30 cigarettes a day?

It all sounds rather implausible to me and smacks of the kind of junk science that is used to support anti-smoking and anti-tobacco measures the world over.

A photograph accompanying the Mail Online article has the caption: Me, myself and I: Loneliness can be as damaging for your health as smoking, research shows [sic]

Clearly working for the Mail Online means you do not end a sentence with a full stop. I wonder how damaging that can be to a person’s health? It is certainly damaging to your reputation as a working journalist.

And why does the caption only mention smoking when alcohol was also mentioned in the study?

It strikes me the Mail Online, like most of the mainstream media, has an anti-smoking agenda.

What’s the betting that every person associated with that article reaching the public is a non-smoker? I will wager they all like a few pints of beer or a few glasses of wine, hence the link to alcohol being downplayed.

You couldn’t make it up, could you? Well, actually they do.

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Did NBC doctor the soundtrack of the women’s team gymnastic event?

By Calvin Palmer

When I watched the live broadcast of the women’s team gymnastic event on BBC One, I was not aware of the North Greenwich Arena erupting in huge roars every time an American gymnast competed. The only loud cheers I heard were when the British girls were performing their exercises and routines.

Several hours elapsed between the end of the event and its broadcast on NBC TV. The technology certainly exists to alter a soundtrack. Did NBC TV doctor the soundtrack of the women’s team gymnastic event?

Watching the evening broadcast by NBC, one would be forgiven for thinking that the women’s team gymnastic event was only contested by three teams – the USA; the Russian Federation; and Romania. It also appeared from the NBC coverage that the Romania team comprised just one competitor.

There is editing and editing. NBC absolutely butchered the live coverage.

In an NBC interview with Michael Phelps, who has become the most decorated Olympic competitor of all time, the American swimmer said that it has been an honour representing the greatest country in the world. America may be great in many things but accurate TV reporting of events does not appear to be one of them.

NBC’s coverage of the women’s team gymnastic event reminded me of the kind of reporting associated with the old Soviet Communist regime, totally biased and a completely inaccurate representation of the actual events that took place in the North Greenwich Arena yesterday afternoon.

It would be an interesting excercise to compare the soundtrack of the BBC’s live coverage of the event with NBC’s edited highlights.

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Filed under Media, Olympic Games, Olympics

NBC goes for dollars in TV coverage of London Olympics

By Calvin Palmer

I am beginning to think NBC stands for No Bloody Coverage when it comes to watching the 2012 Olympic Games on TV.

Already we have had the farce of the Opening Ceremony not being broadcast live in America and it appears that decision has set the tone for the entire coverage from London.

The women’s team gymnastics event was scheduled to start at 11:30 am ET. I switched on my TV, only to find that NBC was showing women’s rowing instead. To watch the women’s team gymnastics in HDTV, I have to wait until 8:00 pm ET and then it will be the edited highlights, which basically means America, America and America to the virtual exclusion of everyone else taking part.

As far as NBC is concerned it appears that if Americans are not competing in an event or have no chance of winning, the event simply doesn’t exist, at least on HDTV.

NBC is providing a livestream of events and what a treat it is to view that on the computer.

I was forced to switch to the NBC livestream of the women’s team gymnastics when BBC One’s coverage, I have found a web site that gives an excellent livestream, ended prematurely for the BBC Six O’Clock News.

The BBC coverage showed the women gymnasts from the USA, Russia, China, Romania, Japan, Canada and, of course, Great Britain. I did wonder why no Italian competitor was shown in action. I guess that was payback for England’s defeat at the hands of Italy in the Euro 2012 Championships.

Watching the NBC livestream coverage you would be forgiven for thinking that Great Britain was not even taking part. In America it is all about winners, so the focus was only on those teams in contention for the medals, although they did feature a couple of the Canadian competitors, I suppose as a sop to its northern neighbour.

Any notion of a special relationship existing between the USA and Great Britain apparently does not exist in the minds of TV executives at NBC. I am not even sure it exists in the minds of many Americans.

And whereas the BBC’s coverage was uninterrupted, the NBC livestream was punctuated every couple of minutes with an adverts for Chevrolet cars – the same two adverts repeated ad nauseum.

In his speech at the Opening Ceremony, Lord Coe said:

“There is a truth to sport … a purity , a drama, an intensity.”

NBC is tarnishing and manipulating that truth and purity with its blatant pursuit of maximizing its advertising revenue. In America, it is all about money; truth and purity were sold off during the Nixon era, perhaps even before.

The Los Angeles bureau chief of The Independent, Guy Adams, has been banned from Twitter for voicing his criticism of NBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games in London. Whatever happened to America, land of the free? America, land where nothing is free would be more apt.

Will my criticisms of the broadcasting company result in me being banned from WordPress? We shall see.

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Filed under Advertising, Media, Olympic Games, Olympics, United Kingdom

Model Catrinel Menghia puts the ‘hot’ into the Fiat Abarth hot hatchback

By Calvin Palmer

Sex sells. If it does not exactly result in a purchase of a product, a sexy advert will bring the product to the fore of our consciousness.

Such has been the case with the Fiat Abarth TV advert, which has been airing on Fox Soccer Channel. Of late, I have been a regular visitor to this channel, with six of Stoke City’s last seven games being shown live.

The Fiat Abarth ad features the feminine charms of model Catrinel Menghia and the suggestive use of the foam of a cup of latte.

I love this ad not only because of Catrinel Menghia but also because it reminds me of TV ads I used to enjoy back in Britain, comprising wit, style and the sexy charms of a beautiful woman. I do not speak Italian but I swear I understand every word of what the delicious Menghia is saying. It does not really matter what she is saying, does it?

For the cunning linguists out there, Menghia actually says:

What are you looking at? Uh!

What are you looking at? Uh!?

What are you looking at?! (slap)

Are you undressing me with your eyes?

Poor guy…you can’t help it?

Is your heart beating? Is your head spinning?

Do you feel lost thinking that I could be yours forever?

The translation is courtesy of Jalopnik.com.

I wondered at first if this ad had been produced by a European ad agency because it seemed too sophisticated to be the work of an American agency. I was wrong. The ad was produced by the Richards Group in Dallas, renowned for its thinking-outside-the-box advertising campaigns and one of the agencies I covered when I worked for Adweek.

The ad first aired during the 2012 Superbowl and then went viral on YouTube.

In conservative America, for conservative read backward, it was feared this ad would be too provocative for the pious religious puritans who exert far too much influence on everyday life in a country where Church and State are supposed to be separate. The reality is that in some states, the First Baptist Church controls just about everything through its political representatives.

While it may not make it to the network channels, special interest cable channels such as Fox Soccer Channel are able to give this brilliant ad the airtime it deserves.

And what of the delectable Catrinel Menghia. First, she is not Italian. The 26-year-old model is Rumanian and has featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and a host of lingerie ads. The 5ft 9ins brunette has also appeared in Maxim and FHM. She is the face of Giorgio Armani worldwide and the body of French lingerie designers Lise Charmel. Here is one of her lingerie shots.

Catrinel Menghia. Picture courtesy of Lise Charmel.

According to Jalopnik.com, she does not have a scorpion tattoo on the back of her neck. Did anyone really think she did?

I was hoping for an in-depth interview with Menghia but when I called she was washing her hair. [In your dreams, Calvin!]

Besides being taken by the charms of Catrinel Menghia, I was also taken by the Fiat Abarth 500. I have always had a penchant for hot-hatch cars, owning first a Citroën AX GT before graduation to the AX GTi and then its replacement, the awesome Citroën Saxo VTS. What a fun car that was. It cornered as if on rails and with its amazing pick up combined with hefty power at the top end, it kept many a BMW in my rearview mirror.

The Fiat Abarth boasts a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that produces 160 bhp and 170lb-ft torque. In a MotorTrend test it clocked 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds and covered a quarter of a mile in 15.3 seconds, reaching a speed of 89.8 mph. However, it does lag 0.5 seconds and one second respectively behind the Mini Cooper S.

Those figures put my old Citroën Saxo VTS in the shade. Its 16-valve 1.6-litre engine produced 118 bhp and 107lb-ft of torque, enabling it to clock 0-60 mph in a comparatively pedestrian 7.8 seconds.

I am beginning to like the sound of the Fiat Abarth. But there is one slight problem. The bustling metropolis that is Jacksonville does not have a Fiat dealership — no surprise there. According to the Fiat USA web site, the nearest dealership to me is in Daytona, 84 miles away. That will be convenient for an oil change and regular servicing.

I think I may start a campaign to get Jacksonville to change its name to Hicksville – the city that time, and the rest of the world, forgot.

The latest TV ad for the Fiat Abarth features Charlie Sheen but Catrinel Menghia puts in a cameo appearance at the end. Sheen steps out of the car and says: “I love being under house arrest.” He then asks Menghia: “What do I get for good behaviour?” This ad was produced by the Detroit office of Doner  and is definitely in keeping with the usual American TV ads, featuring outlandish behaviour and the use of a celebrity.

My vote goes to the Richards Group and its Fiat ad.

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Lowe’s sinks to an all-time low by pandering to bigotry and hatred

By Calvin Palmer

I will no longer be shopping at Lowe’s, the DIY chain. I strongly urge all people with a compassionate and tolerant nature to do likewise, although I know that plea is likely to fall on a great many deaf ears in Florida.

Lowe’s recently took an egregious decision to withdraw its advertising from TLC’s reality TV show, All-American Muslim, which depicts the daily lives of five Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan, all because a bigoted born-again christian claims the show masks the real intent of Muslims to takeover America.

David Caton, the 55-year-old sole employee of a fundamentalist group called the Florida Family Association organized the protest against the All-American Muslim show. So, effectively, one religious wacko has influenced the actions of a national corporation.

How low could Lowe’s have sunk?

The company obviously did not research into the background of Caton or his group and therefore left itself open to accusations that it favors religious and racial intolerance.

Lowe’s defended itself, lamely in my opinion, by saying “All-American Muslim had become a “lightning rod for people to voice complaints from a variety of perspectives — political, social and otherwise”.

Caton, an accountant turned rock-club owner, the author of a book about his addiction to pornography – I guess that really does make him what the British would call “a wanker” in every sense – shrugs off claims that Florida Family Association is a fringe hate group but rather aims to “defend traditional American biblical values”.

What are traditional American biblical values – hatred, vengeance, intolerance, hypocrisy?

It never fails to amaze me how these christian fundamentalists* can quote the Old Testament chapter and verse but pay scant regard to the teachings of the New Testament upon which the religion of Christianity is founded. Love, compassion, kindness and tolerance are an anathema to these people.

Just how different in his thinking is David Caton from Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian who killed 85 people, many of them youngsters at a camp retreat, in bombing and shooting attacks this summer? Breivik, 32, claimed he carried out the attacks as part of a “war” to prevent an “Islam takeover” of the West.

Caton claims the TLC show is not an accurate portrayal of American Muslims because it doesn’t disclose that “99.9 percent of Muslims agree with the principles of Sharia law,” the restrictive religious code that Caton and others warn leads to the spread of Islamic extremism.

“This has all to do with the way this program was constructed to deliberately present Muslims in America as one flavor,” he told The Associated Press. “It would be similar to The Learning Channel doing a report on ‘snakes are good family pets’ without reporting that there are four in Florida that are venomous. ….For TLC to choose to profile five people as an aberration of the Islamic faith is propaganda.”

And Lowe’s gave this man the oxygen of publicity. It almost beggars belief in a supposed civilized nation.

As long as the Catons of this world are allowed to hold sway on American life, the country can never claim to be civilized. It may hopefully achieve that status one day through programs such as All-American Muslim and when the latent racism that lurks beneath the façade of respectability in The South is banished once and for all.

As a company, Lowe’s should be thoroughly ashamed of itself. Never mind the mealy-mouthed platitudes designed to keep the tea party idiots and rednecks happy in their ignorance. If the company wants to win back fair-minded and decent customers, it could make a start by firing those people responsible for deciding to pull the TV adverts.

Until that happens, Lowe’s might just as well incorporate a burning cross in the company’s logo.

Based on reports by The New York Times and CBS News.

If you feel strongly about the action taken by Lowe’s, visit http://www.myfellowamerican.us/ and make your feelings known.

* The thoughts and actions of these people are such that they are unworthy of the usual journalistic protocol of Christians.

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A voice of reason falls silent with the death of Christopher Hitchens

By Calvin Palmer

Writer and journalist Christopher Hitchens died yesterday after his battle with oesophageal cancer. He was 62.

He was an inveterate smoker and drinker and no doubt the health fascists will claim he got what he deserved, a typical riposte from such intellectual pygmies.

Hitchens was a Brit who made it in America, which shows what a difference real talent makes. I would gladly settle for one tenth of Hitchens’ talent.

It was during BBC America’s election night coverage of the 2008 US presidential election that he won a place in my heart and mind when he described Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as “an insult to democracy”. As so often throughout his life, Hitchens was bang on the money.

I hope his spectre will continue to haunt similar presidential candidates who hold a Disney-like view on life and are driven by a god that Hitchens refused to acknowledge. In his book God is Not Great, published in 2007, Hitchens argued that religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry”.

May the ghost of Hitchens ensure that the likes of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and other tea party idiots never gain centre stage in US politics. Like Palin, they too are an insult to democracy.

Hitchens was criticized in some quarters for not remaining loyal to his early left-wing beliefs but surely it is the mark of an independent mind to attack both Left and Right when they are wrong, praise them when they get it right and not be beholden to either of them. Any free-thinking mind cannot to be tied down by isms in any way shape or form.

In his later years his maxim became “it is an absolute certainty that there are no certainties”, save the one that befalls everyone from CEOs of massive corporations to homeless people wandering city streets — death.

If there is such a thing as the after life, I would like to think that when Hitchens crossed over to the other side, he was greeted with a gin and tonic, offered a cigarette and then held forth in his inimitable and forthright style.

Hitchens lived life to the full and richly filled the lives of others.

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Willing ‘gels’ keep Brodie in his prime

By Calvin Palmer

Masterpiece Mystery, on the PBS channel, presented the first episode of Case Histories last night. For me, this series is something of an unknown quantity. Its pedigree does not go back to when I lived in the UK; friends in the UK have not made mention of it; and the star, Jason Isaacs, does not readily spring to mind.

A Google search revealed that I have seen Isaacs before and in England; he had a role in an episode of Inspector Morse in 1992. I have also seen him in A State Within, which aired in 2006. He also played Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films.

I am usually good at remembering people’s faces, Isaacs would seem to be the exception.

Playing a bluff Yorkshire man – all Yorkshire men seem to be bluff although I suppose Alan Bennett is one obvious exception – and ex-policeman turned private investigator Jackson Brodie, I kind of warmed to Isaacs’s character and interpretation.

At first, I thought the series was set in Yorkshire but it soon became apparent the location is Edinburgh. Watching Case Histories you would be forgiven for thinking that the Scots have all left Scotland’s capital. I think out of a dozen or so characters, only three spoke with a Scottish accent.

Google further revealed that Case Histories is based on the novel of the same name by Kate Atkinson, where the action is set in Cambridge. I guess the choice of Cambridge for a TV series was considered to be too similar a setting to Inspector Morse and the later Inspector Lewis TV series.

The plot of Case Histories has sufficient twists and turns to keep the mind engaged. The only downside was the salacious interludes, such as the woman who has sex with Brodie in order for him to take her case; another of his clients had the hots for him from the get-go and ended up in bed with him in the closing scene; and then the sister of the aforementioned client confesses to having fabricated a significant other and we get to see her beginning foreplay with a recently acquired lesbian partner. I guess the sex romps and lesbianism help with the viewing ratings but clearly any female nudity in these scenes is strictly frowned upon.

Women and gay male viewers get to see Isaacs topless and sporting his collection of macho tattoos but male viewers are denied similar views of Brodie’s sexual conquests. Whatever happened to equal opportunity?

A series of flashbacks underpinned the main plot, where a young Brodie witnesses his sister’s body being dragged from a river. We later saw Brodie lay some flowers at her grave. She was 16 when she died. Whether her death was the result of an accident, suicide or murder will no doubt be revealed as the series unfolds.

Brodie is also facing issues with his ex-wife who plans to deny him access to his daughter, Marlee, by taking up a temporary post in New Zealand. Marlee is played in a natural and realistic way by Millie Innes. Unlike child actors in American TV series, where one’s initial reaction is simply to throttle them and put an end to their obnoxiousness, Innes gives an endearing portrayal.

From last night’s episode, viewers gain the impression that Brodie left the police force under something of a cloud. He had achieved the rank of inspector and mention was made of his exposure of wrongdoing by police colleagues. No doubt this theme will be expanded upon in later episodes.

Case Histories is eminently watchable and gives me my Sunday night English drama fix. You have to live in a foreign country to realize just how comforting it is to hear one’s native language being spoken in familiar accents. And besides, I get to see glimpses of dear old Blighty, as well as the eccentricities of the English. Little things, such as someone spreading Marmite on their breakfast toast, mean an awful lot to me. I still do the same even living in America.

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Filed under Film, Media, Movies, United Kingdom