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Red sky in morning

At 05:45 in the morning — a full two minutes before sunrise— all I saw was the magnificent red sky and the promise of a fantastic day. As I write this post (11am) I have recalled the old adage;

  Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in morning, shepherd’s warning

And it proved to be an accurate indication of what was to happen. While the clouds have not yet released the probably biblical quantities of water they contain, it can't be far away.

PS. Despite the thousands of pounds of camera equipment in the house, this shot was taken with the iPhone next to my bed that also serves as my alarm clock.



"It's Sport Jim, but not as we know it"

Attending the Olympic Archery at Lord's, Conor and Robin discover that not all sports are football

Despite my love of Rugby I've never thought of myself as much of a sports fans, but it's hard to live in London over the last month and avoid being immersed in sports, and I have discovered that I am a sport fan, just not of a fan of the sports that we're typically exposed to.

I used to subscribe to Sky Sport but it was poor value for money for someone who just wanted to watch Rugby. My desire to pay to watch the few Rugby games available was subsidising the much greater coverage Football received (and Football is not a game that needs my financial help), but the straw that broke the camels back was the Saturday morning Sky Sports switched coverage of a live international Rugby match to a channel they don't make available to my cable TV provider. Paying over £30 a month for Sky Sports apparently didn't entitle me to watch the full game, and before that match had ended I had phoned Virgin Media and cancelled my Sky Sports subscription.

But it turns out there's a whole world of great sport outside the wall to wall Football coverage. While I discovered an interest in many sports during the 2012 London Olympics the one sport that still doesn't interest me is was Boxing, despite the fact that Boxing accounted for 80% of Ireland's Olympic medals, and our only Gold,  I've still not a boxing fan, I've never enjoyed the idea that to win you were aiming to knock another competitor unconscious.

Watching boxing is fine when Katie Taylor is winning, but I find it to truly horrible to watch Joe Nevin, my country man, being knocked to the floor. All those cheering fans take on a rather ominous tone when they're cheering the fact that the athlete representing your country is lying injured in the ground. You won't see a French Cycling fan cheering because Bradley Wiggins misjudged a corner, fell off and is lying on ground dazed and confused.

Despite reaffirming my dislike for boxing the reason for my new found appreciation of sport was easily explained by the simple fact that it wasn't football. But just six days after the closing ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics, the football season has started and to quote the Guardians's Geoffrey Wheatcroft;

We return from the loyalty and fair play of our cyclists, rowers and runners to that vast carnival of cheating, brutality and avarice known as the Premier League.

Anyone who happened across the BBC's incredible Olympic coverage, which permitted us all the ability to watch any sport we chose live on the BBC website, is keenly aware that the technology now exists to allow sports fans to watch any sport online, we just need the willingness to cover it.

It's technically possible to provide coverage without the need for traditional broadcast infrastructure and as a fan of major sport that still fails to find decent coverage in the face of the commercial might of Football all I can say is, I want to spend money to watch the sport I love, who wants to provide that service and take my money!


The Newsroom

It always struck me as rather odd that for the longest time TV was seen as the movie industry's poorer cousin. While films have tended to have larger budgets you typically get about 100 minutes to develop your characters and tell your story, but with TV you can get anywhere between 500 and 1000 minutes, per season. Over the last 20 years we've seen TV become the place to tell complicated multi character stories. One of the best examples of this trend is the HBO show 'The Sopranos'. While the Godfather trilogy had 9 hours to tell Michael Corleone's story, HBO took 86 hours to tell us Tony Soprano's story.

While there are many examples of long form stories told on TV perhaps the best single proponent of this style of story telling is the American writer and producer Arron Sorkin.

While Sorkin has written screenplays for successful films — The American President, Charlie Wilson's War, The Social Network, and Moneyball — he is probably best know for his Television work. With his shows Sports Night, The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset strip, Sorkin has acquired a reputation for creating interesting characters with depth, and for telling fast paced compelling stories, and it is this track record that has elevated expectations of his works.

On the 24th of June Sorkin's latest show aired for the first time. The Newsroom tells the behind the scene stories of a primetime news show on a US TV news network after the show's anchor 'suffers'an epiphany that results in him deciding to report the news he feels matters rather than chase ratings. The Newsroom hasn't received the glowing reviews in the press that many hoped or expected it would. Many reviewers felt that Sorkin was using The Newsroom as a vehicle to lecture the media on what was wrong with journalism in the US, and further, that he was romanticising a golden era of Television news that never existed. While many will argue that Edward Murrow and Walter Cronkite's even-handedness and fairness was the high water mark of responsible television journalism, some reviews were quick to point out that Murrow took a personal stand against Senator Joseph McCarthy that led to the Senator's fall from popularity, and when Cronkite stated his personal opinion about the futility of the Vietnam war President Johnson famously said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America".

While those reviews make valid points about narrative problems and inaccuracies in the way television news actually works they seem to ignore the fact that there is a significant problem in the US television news business. The last 20 years have seen the rise of partisan news networks presenting opinion rather than fact, who pursue ratings rather than truth and report that which is popular rather that which is important. A recent Gallup poll details how Americans' confidence in television news is at an all time low.  Perhaps there is a lecture to be listened to.

The Newsroom is far from perfect. As's TV critic, Willa Paskin, pointed out, we don't need a Coldplay soundtrack to help understand that Congresswomen Gabriel Giffords being shot was a bad thing. But this misses the point, the Newsroom's primary concern is not to educate us as to the failings of television news, it is a drama shown on HBO not a documentary on CNN or the History channel.

When reviewing Games of Thrones, HBO's most popular current show, reviewers didn't get hung up on the accuracy of the depiction. To be fair, Games of Thrones is set in an entirely fictional world, but the author, George R. R. Martin, based that fictional world on medieval Europe. Critics aren't complaining that Martin's work isn't an accurate depiction of Europe, or that Dragons featured in the show don't actually exist. I think what annoys me most is that many reviewers are unable to separate the story telling from the reality. I put this down to proximity many of those reviewing the show have to the television industry, criticising what you know is easier but perhaps not that relevant to the audience who don't work in TV.

I appreciate that It's equally easy for a fictional news show to look back at major events and report those events in a manner that makes the characters look great, but that doesn't change the fact that the a fictional news network is presenting news in a coherent and intelligent manner that no major news network in the US could or would today. Could it be that Journalists and commentators who wrote the reviews are annoyed at the portrayal of journalists trying to report actual news? Journalist heal thy self.

But The Newsroom is getting better. Sorkin may be relying on narrative devices we've seen in The West Wing, and Sport Nights before that, but they work, and I'm enjoying it more as it develops. Most importantly, The Newsroom has been picked up for a second season and here's hoping it continues to run for some time to come, and maybe we can gain an appreciation for TV news could be.


Good day at the office

Sometimes, you can tell when people are having a good day at work.

While I'm not a fan of what the Olympics have become, and I strongly believe there are many better things the money could have been spent on, even I got caught up in the sprit and made the lengthy trip to the end of my road to watch to the 2012 Olympic Women's Cycle Road race as it passed through Teddington in south west London.

I wasn't the only one who entered into the spirit of it all, the Metropolitan Police's corps of Motorcycle riders were clearly enjoying their days work, but this officer in particular took to time to 'high five' as many people in the crowd as he could.

Other officers were standing up on their bikes, trying to get the crowd worked up and excited despite the rain, others used their sirens to comic effect, but it's nice to see the officials and Police enjoying the day as much as the spectators did. Today was a good day.


Where I spent my summer vacation

As places to spend the night go, this isn't too bad. We rafted up with the nine other yachts in our flotila, rowed ashore for dinner in a Greek Taverna, and having returned we spent the night miles from the nearest village.

Okay, our neighbours were only a meter away but the view was spectacular!

Island Bay, Kolpos Agiou Orous, Halkidiki, Greece