‘Hear’ and Now

June 29, 2017

Filed under: Blog — Tags: , — gareth @ 1:38 pm

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Someone once said to me sarcastically that “anyone and their dog could start a podcast”. I thought that was a good observation, even if it came from an idiot. Just about everyone, including big brands, are doing their own podcasts now – and instead of making fun of them, I would suggest you jump on the bandwagon. Hell, even Alanis Morissette started her own podcast a few weeks ago.

In a story published this week by AdWeek, according to a new report from the IAB in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers US, podcast ad revenue has grown by 85% since last year and is on track to reach more than $220 million in 2017. Previously, ad revenues for podcasts jumped 73% from 2015 to 2016.

“That makes podcasting the fastest growing media platform in the world.” Gimlet co-founder, Matthew Lieber was excited to tell us on Twitter.

General Electric’s The MessageThe McKinsey Podcast and a number of other branded podcasts have even made it into the top 50 podcasts in the US in the last six months. In a world of narrowcasting and niche offerings, podcasting is the go-to choice for people with little time and a lot of discernment, and brands know they have to get in now or miss the wave.

A lot of naysayers and cynics will say that’s all good and well in the US, but here in Africa, things are a lot more slow, data prices are too high, people are used to radio, blah blah blah. I’ve heard it all before. These are exactly the people that marketers and advertisers should be wary of. Brands can, for the first time in a compelling audio format, reach out to audiences directly and produce high-quality content – but they shouldn’t do it alone. A solid understanding of the fundamentals of good storytelling, broadcasting techniques and the experience of those who have used audio to build terrestrial radio audiences will help you get there faster, and reach further. That’s what we’re doing for our clients at CliffCentral.com – clients like T-Systems and AutoTrader.

In South Africa, all the terrestrial radio stations have started doing what CliffCentral.com started doing three years ago, and to their credit, some do it pretty well. We’re already looking at the next frontier… and we have two powerful partners to help us get there – Muzi Kuzwayo and Phumi Mashigo of Ignitive. Between the two of them they have storytelling, advertising, production and commercial experience that will give us an edge and help us take things up a level.

In the next few weeks, I’ll tell you what we’ve learned and how we’re planning to change the game once more. Watch this space, and don’t get left behind…

G

The Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum – Bonn, 19 June 2017

June 20, 2017

Filed under: Blog — Tags: , , , — gareth @ 7:09 am
It was a pertinent week for me to find myself in Bonn. For three days before I arrived at the Global Media Forum in Bonn, I was in Berlin – a city that practised in reality what the rest of the world preached in ideology, at the height of the Cold War. Communism, totalitarianism and authoritarianism pitted against capitalism, free expression and democracy. We knew who won that battle of ideas, and we have seen the costs for the losing side.
In a world of resurgent nationalism, Russian manipulation of the digital media, fear and loathing in Trump’s America and even the manufactured outrage and racism South Africa sees flaring up from time to time, it may sometimes feel like we’re entering a new era of ideological warfare. To make things even more difficult, the rise of fake news and the demise of traditional media leave many people confused, craving credibility and authenticity.

Bonn is the old capital of West Germany, and the room I sat in to hear the Plenary speeches was the same room in which reunification was debated under the old Bundestag. To begin the official proceedings, Deutche Welle’s Director General, Peter Limbourg paid homage to Helmut Kohl, the great architect of German reunification and first chancellor of a united Germany in 1989/1990. Kohl died this week, leaving a mixed legacy in a Europe unsure of union and a Germany dealing with identity, immigration and integration.

There will be many issues debated and discussed this week: Identity, diversity, free expression, censorship, social and digital media. Lawyers, politicians, think tanks and media businesses will bring their know-how and questions to the forum. I hope I find clear and thoughtful ideas that enhance the way we build a trailblazing platform in South Africa. It’s clear that our problems are not unique and our challenges are global in nature. We’re not alone.

The open, exciting world the Internet presents to us can be frightening, but like capitalism and democracy, it seems the best of the bad options, and the only one which can improve and evolve itself over time.

What Will Replace Reading?

April 18, 2017

Filed under: Blog — Tags: , , — gareth @ 12:48 pm

For the last 100-500 years (depending on what part of the world you’re from), reading and writing have been upheld as the best means of communicating great ideas, confirming important agreements, recording our stories and sharing information with wide audiences. Before that, for tens of thousands of years, we listened and talked to each other.

The only reason that writing and reading became more hallowed and respected than the oral traditions was because it was easier to prove something if it was written down. There was no way to record the spoken word very accurately, and things like tone and delivery were nearly impossible to describe. Thanks to the world of mobile technology and sound and video recording, we can start communicating great ideas, confirming important agreements, recording our stories and sharing information with wide audiences the way we always wanted to.

As TechCrunch reported this week (https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/14/can-podcasting-save-the-world/), podcasting is replacing long-form journalism for smart, mobile, early adopters and is becoming the preferred method for information transfer for people too busy to read 10 000-word articles. As print media starts to lose its prominence and usefulness, so audio (more than video) content will steadily take its place. I say this with no love or joy – I take great delight in the written word, am a confirmed bibliophile and believe ardently that reading and writing will never die, but it will change. Radio survived the advent of television because of commuter traffic (you couldn’t watch TV or read a magazine while driving, but you could listen to radio while doing other things), and podcasting similarly, can be taken into environments where they don’t require your undivided attention. You could listen to a history podcast while cutting up vegetables for dinner, or hear a fascinating interview while you’re on the treadmill.

For many people, podcasts exist to improve their mind, widen their understanding of the world, or take them on journeys of discovery – meeting people and going to places that they’d never get to experience in the first person. They can also be entertaining, comforting, inspiring, empowering or useful. You can learn French, hear a philosophical debate, follow a gripping fiction or laugh at outrageous comedy and all of it can be a tremendously private experience. After almost 20 years as a broadcaster, it feels like we’re amplifying the best stuff and throwing away the stuff we didn’t need or like.

Podcasts will of course become increasingly niched, as will all content – essentially the individual will select and edit their own subscriptions independently – and that’s exactly how it should be. Just as people who believe in free expression wouldn’t want anyone censoring them, a listener can finally become their own content curator – and it has taken a few thousand years to reach this point.

To find out more about creating podcasts for your brand, contact sales@cliffcentral.com

2017 – The Year of the Podcast

April 3, 2017

Filed under: Blog — Tags: , — gareth @ 8:07 am

South Africa isn’t “on the brink” of a digital revolution – and the tipping point isn’t some mystical moment – some exact date and time when consumers and listeners and discerning citizens will suddenly discover, en masse, that there’s content FOR AFRICA online. They’ve been doing it for a long time already and they’re coming for it in increasing numbers. If you’re not firmly placed in the digital media game by mid-2017, you’re going to be too late.

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One day people will talk about podcasts like they talk about Facebook, because they’re talking about them now like they used to talk about Facebook. At CliffCentral.com, we knew we were breaking new ground. In America, Inside.com are calling 2017 the YEAR OF THE PODCAST: “I predict this year is the tipping point for podcasting, with ‘Serial’ laying the groundwork two years ago for ‘Missing Richard Simmons’, as well as folks like Joe Rogan going supernova… podcasts which are taking the medium from the underground to the mainstream.”

In a world that moves as fast as it does now, the delay between what is happening in the US and what will happen in South Africa is much more protracted. With a stable of unassailable talent, creative ways of doing branded content and an unbridled authenticity, it’s possible for anyone to build a successful podcast. You could start one now, as long as you’re passionate, original and consistent.

When CliffCentral.com turns three in May 2017, we’ll have established ourselves as the biggest podcaster in Africa, and one that has produced almost 30 000 hours of original talk content. Our clients range from banks to food outlets and the stuff we can produce for them is as authentic as it gets. There may be fake news out there, but there’s nothing fake about podcasts.

Podcast fans, unlike the people who listen to whatever is dished up to them on terrestrial radio, are even willing to pay for their subscriptions – so when advertisers and sponsors are too meek to support them, their listeners will. Dave Rubin, whom I interviewed this month, went independent from ORA TV and asked his audience to contribute to his Patreon account so that he wouldn’t have to rely on advertisers. He more than covered his costs and now runs his show according to his own rules. His audience is happy, he’s happy and he can produce quality stuff without any conditions brought to bear by someone else’s money.

To build a great aggregator of podcast content and corner the market on audio content, you’d need to buy the Top 40 podcasts in South Africa, delivering between 1000 and 50000 listeners a week.
With some overlap, that’s a potential subscriber base of some 40 000 to 2-million people. To give you some idea of how good that is, look at these figures, as compiled by Inside.com:

New York Times: About 3 million (digital + print combined)
WSJ: 948,000 subscribers (digital only)
Pandora: 4.39 million (total)

The opportunities for brilliant content creators are wide open, but you’d need to act now to catch the wave.

G

For content creation opportunities to connect brands with our digitally engaged audience, contact sales@cliffcentral.com

Distractions

March 27, 2017

Filed under: Blog — gareth @ 1:54 pm

We live in such a fascinating country. Not one single person, if you take the trouble to get to know them, is one-dimensional. This morning I met a successful Afrikaans singer whose album has gone double-platinum and who plays towns like De Aar as well as massive shows like “Afrikaans is Groot”. His name is Refentse Morake. Yes, people who love Identity Politics, your head probably exploded.

Having spent a week in Austin Texas, I managed to take a deep breath and exorcise some of the hokey South African obsessions that keep cesspools like Twitter alive with anger, fury, outrage and consternation. Instead I found myself talking to visionary people, pragmatists and venture capitalists about things like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Robotics. You know, the stuff that will take us forward as a species, instead of backwards into our fearful, tribal, primitive past. We all have that choice, you don’t need to leave South Africa to choose to move forward.

Two big stories have dominated the national dialogue (at least if you believe Twitter is a true reflection of the feelings and thoughts of most of our people – by the way, I don’t) over the last few days: Helen Zille defending colonialism and two rude assholes shouting at each other at Spur. Lurking somewhere in the background, Bathabile Dlamini’s dereliction of duty, SARS owing citizens some R19-billion in VAT and a suspicious burglary of the Chief Justice’s offices seems to bother only a few.

We’re so goddamn stupid.

No wonder we account for about half of one percent of the world’s GDP. We’re like one of those rural backwaters where the internecine battles of one family against another distract them from an invading horde who end up slaughtering them all. It’s deeply discouraging, and considering our unique qualities, geography and infrastructural advantages on the continent, we are more than disappointing.

If you want to be better, might I humbly suggest a few things? These aren’t based on any qualities I believe I have, but upon the qualities of those who have changed the world for better and whom (as a student of history and a communicator) I have observed:

1. Individuals who think of themselves as individuals first are truly free to self-actualise.
2. Blaming another person, the government, history or your parents may be valid, but it won’t help at all.
3. Your failures and successes are yours. Own them.
4. Nobody cares enough about you to conspire against you, except you.
5. If you want to be successful, help other people solve their problems.
6. There aren’t good and bad people, there are good and bad ideas. Some of those ideas are baked in early.
7. Collaborate to grow. Holding on to something and not sharing it will keep it small.
8. Think ten times as much about tomorrow as you do about what happened yesterday.

G

#SXSW2017

March 13, 2017

Filed under: Blog — gareth @ 1:57 pm

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It’s day three of the most interesting convention in the world and I’m sitting two rows away from supermodel Brooklyn Decker, listening to a discussion on women in executive positions in tech start-ups. It’s not something I’d normally have any interest in, but I just found out that a woman designed a bra long before any man did and had it stolen away from her (along with all the financial derivatives) by a man. That kind of story makes the subject fascinating – and that’s the point, SXSW is fascinating. From VR experiences about Philip Treacy hats to keynotes about the future of human genetic engineering, there’s enough brain food (as Stuff publisher, Toby Shapshak calls it) to keep anyone but the wilfully ignorant engaged.

I heard a story about where the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” came from: According to a cab driver there was a homeless alcoholic man called Leslie who used to prance around in a string bikini, using all his charms to persuade the people of Austin to part with their money so that he could spend it on booze. He used to tell them to keep Austin weird. Austin is the capital of Texas, but it’s more San Francisco than San Antonio. After a while, almost everyone in town got to know the homeless guy and he even ran for mayor. He didn’t win, but some tech billionaire bought him a house he refused to move into. That story is weird, but in this town just about everything is. Cycling cheater Lance Armstrong, legendary director Terrence Malick and computer billionaire Michael Dell live there, Twitter was launched there in 2007, and it’s as close to the centre of the digital universe as it’s possible to be (certainly after Silicon Valley).

In Austin, you might end up at a speakeasy chatting to Scarlett Johansson for an hour (this is supposed to have happened to someone two years ago) or eating lunch with the doctor building memory chips that could cure Alzheimer’s and boost human memory capacity to astronomical levels. Star Wars fanboys mix with venture capitalists and a hundred languages are spoken up and down every escalator. For thirteen days, the Interactive, Music and Film festivals of South By Southwest are a lodestone for people who are more interested in tomorrow than yesterday.

This year I got to host a panel with Brett Loubser of WeChat, addressing the opportunities the mobile economy might offer tech businesses, with a particular interest in the work we had both done in the foundation stages of CliffCentral.com. People are interested in Africa, but they don’t know a lot about it, except for corrupt governments, wild animals and raw material exploitation. To expose people to the opportunities that a connected, increasingly tech-savvy burgeoning young population present is a great way to start conversations – conversations that might result in the next Thawt, Bitland, Giraffe or Elon Musk being found.

 

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On our first night out we found a hot sauce shop that sold some stuff that is so high on the Scoville heat scale that it comes with health advisories. I bought a bottle of Ass Reaper and Dr. Assburn (containing the terrifying Scorpion/Carolina chili pepper) that guarantees a heat of 1,5 million Scoville units. I can’t wait to see if they’re as potent as they’re advertised to be – or maybe I can. There’s a place on 6th Street – which is the main drag for pubs, bars, hidey-holes and drunkenness…

Hang on, some naked people just walked past in the rain under transparent umbrellas. I’m sorry, I got distracted. I’m typing this up at a Starbucks on the corner of 5th Street and I swear, there’s craziness happening in real-time. I don’t want you feeling left out.

As I was saying, 6th Street, just one street up from where I am now, is insane – there’s a place called Buffalo Billiards, where you play games like shuffleboard/air-hockey/dwarf curling (I really don’t know how else to describe it: You slide a heavy disk the size of a fried egg atop a long wooden table sprinkled with fine sand. The object is to get it as close to the far edge without it sliding off. The opposing team try to do the same or knock you off the table), while drinking malt liquor and attempting to chat up the local women – all of whom are wise to any advances. If you like food, you’ll eat like a rescue dog at any number of Mexican, barbecue and fine-dining establishments. The IronWorks will serve up such gigantic beef ribs that the unwary will end up with the meat sweats and pack on weight within minutes.

 

Snacks @sxsw #meaz

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After that you can learn about the latest non fin-tech Blockchain applications and then attend a workshop on how to build a vibrator – and nobody will think any the less of you for choosing either over a presentation by futurist Ray Kurzweil.

In some way, the smorgasbord of businesspeople, nerds, celebrities, thought leaders, scientists, billionaires and remorseless eaters of Austin represent the leading edge of humanity. They’re the people who will determine the way your future looks and sounds and feels, whether you like it or not. Jump on board baby, or you’ll be dragged along against your will anyway.

 

See more photos here.

 

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#PaidTwitter

January 27, 2017

Filed under: Blog — gareth @ 2:00 pm

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This week saw the unwelcome (to Zizi Kodwa and company) revelation that the ANC’s “Paid Twitter” tried to influence and mislead people during the municipal elections in 2016, and possibly in other ways too.

To many people who aren’t among the 2-3 million active Twitter users in South Africa this won’t matter at all, but even if you don’t engage on social media, it is the new battleground for politics, social justice and ideas. A lot of the most skeptical people in society will tell you that if you believe everything you read, you deserve to be confused. It’s becoming a lot harder to ascertain what’s true and valuable in a 21st century world.

2016 was all about racial conflict and division, with political parties and leaders tearing each other apart. Race, gender and sexual orientation became everyone’s weapon of choice in the zero-sum game of destroying reputations and showing everyone else what a good person you are. Who knows, in the light of Paid Twitter, how much of it was true? Certainly there was no winner – in fact the ANC demonstrably lost.

The first time I suspected there was more to it than meets the eye was when I was axed from Idols in January last year as a result of the reactions on Twitter to my tweet: “People don’t understand free speech at all” during the Penny Sparrow debacle. The racist vitriol that was unleashed on me took a heavy toll and our young business was under serious threat. My manager did a thorough analysis and identified a group of antagonists that suggested a more coordinated approach – she even called it sinister. Turns out she was exactly right. There were a dozen or more of these agents, and we even had confirmation of something in the shadows some months later. As of this week, the whole rotten enterprise has been laid bare – and the chickens are coming home to roost.

While the year saw a lot of figurative online bloodshed, the Institute of Race Relations insist race relations are good, and that most people (85%) believe we need each other to succeed and prosper. The real challenge in 2017 is going to be figuring out who you can trust, what’s credible and what people really care about. Trending topics on Twitter come and go – what matters today is no longer important tomorrow, and that was true even before Twitter came along. But with the reality of cynical paid campaigns and bought influence, we must be careful not to be swept up in manufactured outrage and fake news.

When Shaka Sisulu says something now, we may side-eye him rather than retweet him. Even so, being reactive isn’t going to take you all the way. Unfortunately the buck stops with you: You need to be acutely aware of bias, open to ideas that don’t support your point of view and willing to read a lot more material than the 140 characters in a Tweet. If you aren’t prepared to do those things, get ready to be led down the garden path. The tendency to fall in with Group Think is also strong – and as we discussed on my show this week, people who lack self-confidence and desire to belong to a group will sacrifice their own rigorous intellectual conclusions to the opinion of a mob, if it means they can stay in the group.

First principles. Sources. Relevance. A while ago I said everyone is a broadcaster – now you also have to be your own editor. Mute the scurrilous agents, block the instigators and recognise the signs that you’re being played. While social media have in so many ways liberated us, they have exposed us personally and intimately to some very dangerous influences and influencers.

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Fat Chance!

January 26, 2017

Filed under: Blog — Tags: , , , , — gareth @ 8:16 am

This week I’m supposedly fat-shaming women. This is the meme I posted on Instagram.
Like bees around a honeypot, the online journalists buzz into the hint of a controversy and pollinate (or rather pollute) social media with their stories. It’s just another form of paid Twitter. And here’s what some of our “respectable” news outlets had to say about it:

Radio DJ, Gareth Cliff, has been accused of being “sexist” and fat shaming women.
Gareth Cliff Accused of Fat Shaming Women
Did Gareth Cliff Go Too Far?
Gareth Cliff Causes a Stir on Social Media
Gareth Cliff meme caused a social media frenzy

1. There was no social media frenzy. There was a news media frenzy amongst once respected publications who are dredging the bottom of the barrel for stories…or in the case of The Sunday Times in November last year, completely fabricating stories – like reporting that I admitted to spiking Marah Louw’s drink only to have to apologise and retract the following week.
2. This is a meme. I didn’t create it. In fact Republican Sen. Jack Sandlin of Indianapolis posted it first (the source is on the meme). It’s meant to be funny, and if it isn’t funny to you, then that’s all – it isn’t funny to you. Keep scrolling. Trolling social media comments and posing as the internet police is the laziest form of journalism possible.
3. If you’re going to call things a frenzy and they’re really not, you’re lying to your readers. The actual post on Instagram got a mere 500 likes and 90 comments (the vast majority of which came after your frenzy) and only four or five of which were critical. The rest (including numerous comments from self-proclaimed fat women) found it hilarious. So not even the smallest minority of direct responses (not even counting the ones who don’t care or are sick of made-up outrage) agree with these media publications.
4. News agencies – I know when I post stuff and someone gets upset, you can make a story out of it which helps to get clicks to your site, but you’re aiming low. You can’t make me stop laughing at things I find funny (like the video of the guy guiding a lady over a flooded pavement and she gets swept away in the flood, or the guy who gets his dick set on fire). You’re losing the support of people who come to you for real news and some fun. In the land of the offended, there is no fun. Eventually even they leave that land for a place of sunny skies and laughter. That’s where I’m going, you can argue amongst yourselves.
G
PS: If you haven’t read Cliffhanger yet, it gets to the heart of all the previous controversies and how consistently the facts are misreported. Today it’s called “Fake News”.

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Hollywood Tears

January 11, 2017

Filed under: Blog — gareth @ 11:44 am

Check your Twitter timeline. Check Huffington Post or Buzzfeed, if you can stomach it. All they can talk about is how monumental Meryl Streep’s acceptance of the Cecil B DeMille Award was. They’re giddy about how brave Meryl was to stand up in front of a crowd of her adoring peers and virtue signal on behalf of all those minorities, poor people, immigrants and women who Trump “hates”. Those groups obviously didn’t have their own agency, and they didn’t need their own voices to be heard. Dowager Queen Meryl was there to fight for them. Except she wasn’t fighting, she’s an actress – she’s just pretending. You could even say she’s the best at pretending. After all, that’s what the Golden Globes and The Oscars and The Emmys are – where actors pat each other on the back for pretending really, really hard. But according to leftist media, despite winning at pretending, Meryl is now also a saint. The standards for heroism have dropped to a mighty new low.

Now before you start calling me names for being mean about Meryl, let me admit that I’m a fan. She’s great in movies and she deserves every one of her awards. Let me also acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong with anyone, including actors, criticising someone like Donald Trump. But let’s get a little perspective, shall we?

Zoom out on that glittering awards show and take a look at what’s there: In one room you can find the most spoilt, pampered, privileged elite that has possibly ever existed. On an evening like this, their rarified and extraordinary social apartheid from the rest of us is especially apparent. These people do the easiest jobs imaginable for vast sums of money, are lauded far and wide for performing, and find themselves idolised to an extent that the Ancient Egyptian gods would have found mind-boggling. People who sing, dance and act in an industry that many say is past its prime are without doubt the most well-known faces on planet earth. Never in the whole of human history have such a group of people been more coddled for doing less. Worldwide, whole channels and publications slobber over the clothes they wear, the relationships they’re constantly in or out of, and their attention-seeking antics.

Certainly some go on to do honourable things, like Clooney and his father do in the Sudan and the trips Angelina Jolie undertakes for the UNHCR, but they’re not fighting wars or risking life and limb. Mostly it’s good PR. Again, that doesn’t mean they’re not entitled to voice their opinions, but here’s my problem: These precocious Hollywood stars have their egos so regularly and professionally stroked that they start to believe their opinions matter more than yours or mine. They look down their noses at engineers, school teachers, construction workers and local councillors. They never think about the issues that drive most people to the polls – jobs, sanitation, healthcare, property rights, the ability to protect yourself and grow the economy. They don’t care about those things because they’re in a luxury industry and all their opinions are luxury opinions, spat down from ivory towers. That’s why so may of them said they would flee the USA if Trump won. None of them have, because they have it too good – and they know it.

The basic premise of the left is that there are victims and oppressors – and if you can’t find an oppressor, then find someone better off than the victim and call that person, by comparison, privileged. It’s all based on good old resentment. The victims need someone to stand up for them, according to the doctrine, because (shame) they can’t stand up for themselves, and that in turn is called the soft bigotry of low expectations. When someone like Meryl Streep, probably unique in the world, and certainly in the world of acting, starts to talk generally about the poor, the disabled, the immigrants or the oppressed women who don’t know how evil Trump is, you should be suspicious. The best Meryl can be is empathetic. But she’s not, she’s selectively outraged, and the reason for that is plain for all to see: Her girl lost.

Meryl Streep and just about everyone else in Hollywood was very publicly behind Hillary. They attended her benefits, supported her on stage and in person, they leaned her way in every way possible – and most of them imagined their celebrity would assist and easily push her over the finish line. It didn’t. The butt-hurt felt by entertainers who have been roundly ignored by the electorate stings like you wouldn’t believe – and if you don’t believe it, watch one of those YouTube videos they made, pleading for congress to find a way to change the imminent Trump presidency before it becomes a reality. Sally Field, Rosie Perez and Jeffrey Wright, in the most stomach-churning and patronising fashion, explain to congress why they (the actors) represent the majority, why they should be heard and what they’ll do if they’re not. For an industry that produces powerful movies and television, this is abominable material. It also confirms, for most Americans, that Hollywood is in a bubble that has just loudly and unpleasantly burst.
So while Meryl’s speech succeeds in provoking a childish reaction from the man it was so pointedly aimed at, the ancillary damage is done to his supporters, and probably to other people who didn’t even vote for Trump, but want to move on. To them, this is just another sneering ego-trip from someone who hasn’t a clue how they live and probably hasn’t done her own shopping in fifteen years.

The most powerful thing anyone at the Golden Globes could have done (because mostly they’re talking to Hillary supporters), would have been to remind everyone that there’s a new President, and that differences in a very divided country ought to be set aside (and that doesn’t mean supporting Trump), because you may work in an industry of fiction, but it’s reality that matters.

G

2017 and Beyond

Filed under: Blog — gareth @ 11:32 am

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By now you will be tired, exhausted and irritated by the idea of New Year resolutions, people posting their amazing holidays on Instagram, and everyone comparing exciting December adventures – even though you should be re-energised and ready to tackle a brand new year. Don’t feel bad. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. The start and end of each year is actually an arbitrary calendrical invention anyway… the sun, the animals, and your cells don’t care whether it’s 2016 or 2017.

What a new year does give, is a chance to set some goals, refine your ideas, calibrate the amount of energy you’re going to spend on certain people and tasks, and throw out the stuff you didn’t like about 2016. That is to be welcomed by all.

Start with what you can guarantee: yourself. We’ll expand out from there, but let’s start with the attainable. It’s hard to know where to start, so I’ve cobbled together a list of things other people have told me they’ll be doing – feel free to throw out anything that doesn’t appeal to you:

1. More kindness. This doesn’t mean giving beggars money or smiling at the lady at Home Affairs. You may already be a kind person, but we can all improve. The root of the word comes from ‘kin’ and treating everyone you meet as if they’re kin. That unfortunately means having to be nice on social media too. You’ll find it easier to navigate your real and digital life if you’re kind. One of my friends told me that kindness is the number one attribute a person can have. I think I agree.

2. Less worrying. You can’t change what has already happened and you can’t be neurotic and paranoid about what might happen. I suppose a lot of people do, but they’re all very unhappy people. Don’t worry about Trump or Syria (take an interest in them by all means, but don’t let them weigh you down – your brain and biochemistry aren’t wired to care about everyone on earth, even if you’re a compassionate person). If you can help or get involved in something do it, but please stop moaning and cogitating about stuff that you can’t influence or change – it make the people around you tired.

3. Less swearing. This is something I’ve decided I’m going to do. I don’t mind swearing, and sometimes it’s the best way to use words in an appropriate setting, but I’m cutting out the unnecessary swear-words. It gives people who don’t like me a stupid reason to criticise me – and I’m not giving away any cheap shots.

4. Exploring ideas that are opposed to your point of view. This is really important, especially in a world where politicians and interest groups try to divide us. You can’t critically engage with something you don’t understand, so make it your business to deconstruct the precious held beliefs you have and construct an argument against your own position. One of two things will happen; either you will improve your original point of view and argue your position better – or you’ll change your mind. Try not to say you’re a Marxist or alt-right or BLM or an activist – rather say that these are positions you’re exploring. There’s almost nothing more embarrassing on earth than being passionate about something you know nothing about.

5. Work is life, you don’t exist for the two weeks you get at the end of the year to go on holiday. Make sure that the work you do fulfils you. You’ll be spending a lot of time doing it, so if you’re not happy, quit and stop wasting your life. You’ll make money and have satisfaction after you start doing something you are good at and care about, don’t do something for money and hope you’ll find satisfaction. It never works that way round.

6. Stop caring about celebrities. They couldn’t help Hillary win and they will never help you. Every time you buy a tabloid magazine or watch a disgusting reality show, you’re feeding that awful machine. The people in your life are probably more interesting anyway.

7. Don’t become self-absorbed. There’s a lot of narcissism online – people showing off their lifestyles, experiences, bodies and possessions. These people are doing this because they don’t get any attention in real life. If you’re pursuing a fitness goal, you don’t need likes, you need time in the gym. If you’re doing things for attention, you need therapy – a smartphone will make things worse.

8. Celebrate little things, often. If you had a really good day, kept your cool in traffic or heard a song that made you think of someone you love, take a moment to high-five yourself. This sounds cheesy and stupid, but we get so caught up in chasing the big achievements that we forget how much joy there is in the little things. Try it, and if you think I’m talking nonsense, let me know.

9. Unclutter. Your house, your desk, your laptop, your camera roll and your fridge are full of items you really don’t need or even want. Get rid of them. Clutter and chaos will impact negatively on your ability to zero in on the real problems and potential solutions. We all accumulate so much rubbish – make this your year to throw out anything you haven’t used in the last 12 months. Less is more.

10. Sleep properly. Get more than 6 hours of good sleep. Smart, effective people are even more smart and effective if they’re not tired. I know this seems obvious, but we always think of sleep as something we can sacrifice if we need to get more done. You’re doing yourself a lot of damage – for years I have been undisciplined about sleep. This year that changes. My phone isn’t going to be next to my bed at night and I don’t have a TV in my room. If you can’t reach me, I’m asleep. Try later.

There will be ups and downs. Famous people will die. There will be fools on social media and the government will be corrupt. There will be fake news and clickbait and people will do dumb stuff, usually in large groups. When these things happen, don’t act all surprised. I told you so, and I’m no Nostradamus.

Happy New Year 😉

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