Month: May 2015

The Social (media) Contract

With the rise of this website I opened a Twitter and Facebook account, purely to get a little of that free marketing juice. I spent a time reading into the finer points, and learned how to link up my ramblings over here, so they can appear over there… in the social media multiverse.

Anyway, I had lunch a few weeks ago with a friend who runs a very popular website, and knows things about SEO, PPC, and other acronyms’ that she could have made up in order to make me feel stupid. Telling her of my recent triumphs, and expecting some congratulations, she responded with a smirk.

  ‘Is that all you’ve done?’

I was a little hurt by this response, and suggested that surely that’s enough, isn’t it?

She explained that to get anything out of social media, you needed to be “out there”. It’s not enough to flash up every Tuesday, only to be seen by whoever stumbles upon the site. I should be attracting visitors all the time. Building the brand by commenting on hash-tag topics and whatever is trending with the masses.

In short, I should be tweeting and facebooking every day… every hour if possible!

Now I’ll be honest; the thought of being “out there” was not appealing. In fact, my views on Facebook, and the saps that seem to be cemented into their various profiles – nosing around other people’s business – don’t exactly fit the sensibilities Mr Zuckerberg is hoping to reach!

As for Twitter, it appeared to be populated with a technologically advanced lynch mob of hate-filled, self-righteous prigs – as if the Daily Mail and Katie Hopkins had gotten together to create a virtual purgatory for people who don’t have the ability to read anything longer than this sentence.

Putting aside these feelings, I drew my plans for laying siege to the cyber soapbox.

I would be witty, clever and relevant – every day. My tweets would be delivered like surgical smart bombs, and armed with payloads of pure mirth and sneering cleverness.

This lasted 3 days.

During this time I read Jeremy Clarkson’s name more than I ever wish too again, and learnt way too much about Elton John’s synthetic family squabble with a couple of clothes sellers from Italy.

Not exactly a glowing representation of the future of mass communication!

On occasion, when I did manage to enter the inner circle of something remotely interesting, I found the whole experience to be quite cliquey… almost tribal. It seemed that anyone stepping outside of the general views being expressed by the group were quickly cast aside and mocked.

I was beginning to question whether I wanted any of these people heading to my site – they all seemed way too touchy, devoid of any sense of humour, and a bit high maintenance for my taste.

Also, I couldn’t handle the pace of what was going on. I kept getting lost in different timelines, judgment and condemnation was fired in with all the fevered urgency you would expect from a wacky cult, and when I did think of something funny to say, the group had moved on to something else – leaving me with a punch line and no audience!

I’ve since reverted back to my estranged relationship with social media. An automated tweet on a Tuesday is all I can manage. I can’t say I’m disappointed, and I’m sure my would-be followers feel the same way.

To quote Johnny Rousseau, “We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason” – but I’m still not sure why we need social media!

Paul Millard 2015

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David Letterman

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With David Letterman retiring from The Late Show tomorrow night, I wanted to write a little something to mark the occasion.

For a show that ran 5 days a week, for 33 years, and was considered by pretty much everyone as the best of its breed – the UK never aired it routinely. Yeah… pretty stupid!

I remember it showing on Channel 4 back in the late 80’s, then for a few years with Sky One, ITV2 and ITV4. It seemed the UK audiences didn’t get the humour (dumb asses!), and because of this lack of support, I can’t help but feel a little cheated out of my time with Dave.

In spite of this, I have been watching The Late Show (one way or another), for a large portion of my life. It provided a slice of Americana that was utterly intoxicating – particularly to an impressionable 13 year-old kid from London!

30 years later, David Letterman sits with the likes of Bob Newhart, Phil Silvers, Harvey Pekar, P. J. O’Rourke and Mark Twain when it comes to providing a glimpse of US life, with a light dusting of irresistible snarkiness.

During my various trips to New York, I never got to see a taping of The Late Show… but I did get to worship outside the church a few times!

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A very young Paul Millard, doing a very bad Johnny Carwash impression – circa 1992!

Thanks, Dave.

Paul Millard 2015

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Britain’s Got Talent?

Here’s something I wrote a little while after the 2010 General Election, and in response to the Prime Ministerial Televised Debates that aired during April 2010. I’ve published it today for reasons that should be pretty clear.

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Only a few months ago, we were all treated to the Prime Ministerial Debates.

It had never been done before. For the first time ever, a live debate would be held on the economy, foreign policy, voting reform and environmental promises. Nothing was going to be out of bounds. We would witness our future decision makers face the music and answer the big questions.

So, before I go on, did anyone see the debates described above?

I’m not talking about the half-arsed dinner theatre we all got, but rather the fascinating delve into the minds of our political leaders that was advertised by Sky, the BBC and the other one (Channel 5)?

What the fuck happened here? Did I miss the meeting where it was decided that rather than treat those who give a shit about such things, as intelligent, informed and diverse citizens, we’ll instead screw them with their pants on and throw them something we scripted earlier!

Talk about hype, this thing could have been produced by J. J. Abrams… although at times a J. J. Abrams script would have seemed far more realistic and closer to reality.

We had David Cameron looking like a disgraced Geography teacher, Gordon Brown looking for the buffet trolley, and Nick Clegg looking just happy to have been invited.

So with the room paid for, and the band well rehearsed, we all settled down to watch four and a half hours of mutual agreement.

We need more nurses… we need more police… we need more teachers… we need better schools… we need better hospitals… we need a well-equipped army… and we need to cut taxes while paying back billions of pounds in loans.

YES! We all know this!

Honestly, the stuff being discussed was so fucking obvious my pet guinea pig could have stood in for any of these cardboard cut-outs!

These guys were so desperate not to rattle anything, they pretty much echoed each other on everything… and when one of them did forget the script, and foolishly wandered into an actual debate and challenged an opposing policy, they immediately back-paddled to safety.

It was so frustrating. We had the opportunity to seriously debate issues that are going to shape our country for many years to come. We had a stage made up of academics and experts in their chosen fields. And an audience itching to ask questions that will challenge each party.

Fuck that! Let’s just agree that nurses do a difficult job, schools are very important for education, and the police are quite handy for arresting bad people. Holy shit!

This was dumb-down TV at its best.

At a time when stupidity is so readily accepted and catered too on TV, why couldn’t we have used these debates to raise the bar a little higher, and ask people to stretch for it?

We don’t always have to revert to the Wife-Swap formula for lobotomising a nation. If we expect our political leaders to do better, shouldn’t we??

Fast forward a few weeks and Election Night arrived.

The papers and pundits were already calling a hung parliament before a single vote had been cast. In the end, the Conservatives gained 100 seats, Labour lost a ton… and Clegg, the saviour of British politics, actually did worse than ever.

True to form, we found ourselves with a hung parliament – and eventually got a government no one, by a single majority, elected.

And to add insult to injury, Nick Clegg sold out the Liberals and became the Egor to David Cameron’s Victor Frankenstein!

After millions being spent on advertising, even more money spent on boring pundits to cover every boring sentence, and lord knows how much spin and rhubarb, what did the Prime Ministerial Debates provide?

For me, absolutely nothing! All that airtime and money would have been better utilised in an attempt to get Katie Price and Peter Andre back together.

In short, the joke was on us… and continues to get funnier.

Paul Millard 2010 (revised)

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