Monday, 21 September 2009


Music is a wonderful thing that brings people together, triggers personal emotions or memories and is very good at providing a soundtrack to life. It’s interesting how much impact location has had on some of our best songwriters in this country - and one city of note here is Sheffield. From the Arctic Monkeys [pictured] (“You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham”) to Richard Hawley (“Cold city lights glowing”), the Steel City has been the inspiration for a wide variety of music. I love listening to songs in cities where they started life, such as being on the Tube with The Streets on in my headphones (“my Underground train runs from Mile End to Ealing”) or even The Apprentice soundtrack when in Canary Wharf! It’s great to get a feel of their background and influences.

There is a great mini-feature by Dave Simpson in The Guardian today about music in Sheffield - although he begins by saying: “a city peppered with architectural horrors [is] not an obvious place to write a song about”. This made me think that one of the reasons why we have an exceptionally diverse music scene in this country is because the landscapes and buildings of different areas have different impacts on musicians - no UK city is the same. Another good example of this is the rapper and saxophonist Soweto Kinch, whose album B19: Tales of the Tower Block charted the lives of budding musicians in Birmingham who felt they could not escape from their council flat. Such a wonderfully diverse country gives many musicians an great inspiration for song-writing - and it’s great that Sheffield is a good example of this. From the old steelworks to football grounds, and Park Hill Flats to Broomhill mansions, it's a very useful source of lyrics.

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It’s not often that Facebook is blamed for suicide, but that’s exactly what happened after a tragic case recently. The parents of one schoolgirl have said social networking sites place “huge pressures” on young people. Their 15-year-old daughter, Holly Grogan [pictured in The Times], fell 30ft to her death from a bridge in Gloucestershire last Wednesday. Reports suggest she was consistently bullied on her Facebook wall, and this was a major factor in the girl’s decision to end her life. There is no doubt that Facebook has dramatically changed the way that students and young people interact, as it is a central communication hub that is an incredibly useful tool. But the downside is that if you’re unpopular within certain circles nowadays, you can never escape from bullying online.

A few decades ago, before other technologies such as texting and instant messaging became widespread, if you were being bullied at school your home was a safe refuge. But now it will follow you everywhere - and it seems the shame of being bullied online may have led Holly to take her own life. I don’t think I have ever seen serious bullying on Facebook, but maybe that’s because the majority of my friends are of a university age where this is less widespread anyway than at school. However, the concept of out-of-hours bullying is something that needs to be addressed by the government to avoid more tragic cases like this. My suggestion would be that Facebook - at least in this country - should make it easier for children to say confidentially if they are being bullied online, and then for parents and Facebook to work with schools to eradicate this. It may seem a idea too large to implement, but then again very few people predicted Facebook would ever reach the size it has now become. If the government see online bullying as a serious enough problem, then they will spend the necessary money to reduce - if not, eradicate - it.

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Google is one of those things which almost everyone loves, but at the same time is a little scared of due to its all-encompassing size. Matt Brittin, UK Head of Google, says: “We want to help newspaper publishers but we are a technology partner”. A quarter of their revenues last year went back to people whose websites they are “helping to monitise”, according to Brittin. So even though Google have become incredibly big in just over 10 years, it has also created lots of revenue for media organisations by making it easier to find content. Everyone is well aware that newspapers are looking at alternative ways of making money online, and it’s not Google’s fault that few are yet charging for online content.

The problem comes when claims are made that the corporation is making money out of somebody else’s time and effort. But Google News is an exceptionally useful tool, and I often find exactly what I need by using it’s sophisticated search engine which covers around 25,000 sources. In fact, I probably only look at some newspaper websites - especially local - because Google has picked them up. Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey doesn’t particularly like Google News - claiming it’s making easy money out of other people’s hard work - but just think for one moment, where would the internet be without Google? Surely in a worse place.

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Did anyone watch either Europa League match last Thursday involving Everton or Fulham? For the first time in a match involving professional English sides, there were six officials. Yes, SIX [pictured in The Guardian]. One referee, two linesmen on the wide touchlines, two more linesmen on the end touchline, and a fourth official (or should that be sixth). There was probably a seventh somewhere as well as a backup. How many people do you need to make a decision in a football match?!

This just seems to be another ill-fated experiment by UEFA instead of simply introducing video technology. These new referees are supposed to tell if the ball has crossed the line, but those sort of marginal incidents probably happen every once every ten games or so - and does that really need the investment of another two officials in every game? I think not. Video replays can confirm decisions for certain and should be a much cheaper investment in the long-term anyway. UEFA are just prolonging the inevitable, but until then at least managers have still got something to moan about to journalists.