Posts tagged ‘BBC’


The changing accent of Gillian Anderson

09.01.2011

Gillian Anderson, Chicago-born, star of The X Files, grew up in North London and speaks with an accent that’s closer to Britain than the States. I noticed that she gets quite a bit of flak for this on YouTube comments, which is rather sad, perhaps revealing more about those who criticize her than anything else. (See the above video from 1’15”.)
   Critics say that when she’s on The Tonight Show or the less watched one with the cranky old guy, she has an American accent. To me, that makes sense.
   It’s not about “putting it on”. It’s because Anderson subconsciously switches between the two, because she’s had time in both countries.
   The story, as she tells it, was when she got back to the States at age 11, she had an English accent and wanted to hang on to it ‘because it made me different’. However, she learned to speak with a midwestern one, though it is not her natural accent. In my world, we all do this.
   I remember when I was once in London, the cabbie could not understand me when I asked him to take me to Waterloo Station. I summoned up my best Dennis Waterman and put in a guttural stop, asking for ‘Wa’erloo Station’, and there was an immediate understanding.
   Anyone who has grown up in two countries, or in two cultures, will have a very different approach to accents than those who grew up in one.
   I tend to waver between British and Kiwi for a number of reasons, mostly unconsciously. I’m typing this after getting off the phone to my friend Marie, who hails from Nottinghamshire. My colleagues here have often laughed at me when they overhear us because I go slightly northern without intending it.
   The fact is, despite having been raised in New Zealand for most of my childhood, I don’t have a natural accent.
   If the theory that your most impressionable years for learning to talk are between two and four, then I can say, hand on heart, that my exposure to spoken English was minimal: I was in a British colony where 99 per cent of spoken communication was Cantonese, though we learned some English at kindergarten. There were imported TV programmes but my parents and grandmother tended to watch the dubbed stuff.
   Ms Anderson was in London two to eleven, and that explains a lot.
   After moving to New Zealand, we never spoke English in the home. My godparents were English, one of my best friends at school was English, and one of the teachers I was close to at school was English. What was on telly back in those days? Mostly British programmes: The Brothers, Rainbow, Jamie and the Magic Torch, The New Avengers, Return of the Saint, etc.
   Unlike most Kiwi kids, my exposure to Received Pronunciation through media and family friends was not balanced by New Zealand-accented speakers around me. By the early 1980s, I would guess my accent was a mixture, which accounts still, 30 years on, for people asking if I had spent time in Britain or have some greater connection with the country than I actually do.
   By the time more American programmes began here, I believe my impressionable stage had passed. I have met one New Zealander who speaks with an accent closer to American, though I didn’t get to ask why. It wouldn’t surprise me if her story was not unlike my own.
   The fact I speak in the lower registers might make me sound more well spoken than I really am. When I really try to listen to myself, I hear a strong Kiwi twang, but others don’t seem to.
   By the time I was at uni I was embarrassed by the subconscious switching, which I couldn’t control. I attempted to sound more Kiwi—logically, since I was raised here, my accent should reflect that—but to this day, it jumps all over the place.
   The only accent I can actually “do”, as in switch with intention, but effortlessly so, is Scottish English, which I label ‘lower-register Aberdeenshire’—I’ve even been hired to MC a céilidh on one occasion.
   So poor Gillian, speaking so properly and still, many, many years after she was 11 and heading back to the midwest, still gets criticized for it.
   But there you are: this world is a big place and people have many reasons for speaking the way they do—and don’t deserve accusations of faking the way they speak.

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Posted in culture, general, New Zealand, TV, UK | 2 Comments »


Starting Upstairs, Downstairs this weekend

23.12.2010

I know I did this on November 23 on my Tumblr, but I have to share this joke with the Ashes to Ashes fans out there.
   Will the opening of Upstairs, Downstairs on Boxing Day on BBC1 (at 9 p.m.) begin with the Alexander Faris theme tune (see also below), or will Keeley Hawes narrate, ‘My name is Alex Drake. I’ve been shot and that bullet has taken me back to 1936’?


Above: Alexander Faris conducts his theme for Upstairs, Downstairs. I defy those of you over a certain age to not have the words ‘What are we going to do with Uncle Arthur?’ running through your head.

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Posted in culture, humour, TV, UK | No Comments »


A new Eric and Ernie clip

22.12.2010

I wonder if I should get part of the Broadcasting Fee, the way I promote the BBC.
   I like real-life dramas, particularly about recent history. BBC2’s Eric and Ernie, to be shown on January 1 at 9 p.m., looks very good.
   A new clip came out on YouTube 12 hours ago. The earlier one is immediately below, with Victoria Wood and Jim Moir (a.k.a. Vic Reeves—I suspect he is shifting to his real name now and doing a “Dwayne Johnson” on us) as John Eric Bartholomew’s, a.k.a. Eric Morecambe’s, parents. The second shows Morecambe and Wise in action and getting heckled on stage in Glasgow—Bryan Dick, the actor portraying Wise, looks and sounds like the man he is playing. It’s a very good portrayal.

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BBC drama, this autumn and winter

15.12.2010

Don’t know how I could have missed this. Oh, yes I do: I was running for office.
   Now that I’m not, I want to give the BBC a bit of a push, because these dramas look awesome. Aurelio Zen, with Rufus Sewell, looks like my sort of drama, and begins the first week of January. Caterina Murino plays his girlfriend and was that John Shrapnel I saw as a villain? Ashes to Ashes fans: our Luigi, Joseph Long, is in this series, so it’s not just Keeley Hawes (Upstairs, Downstairs) you’ll see this season.
   Doctor Who fans will note that Eccleston, Tennant and Smith appear, though only Smith is the Doctor in these clips.
   No Hustle promoed here, but that will also start in early January.
   And the calibre of the actors here is amazing. See how many big names you can spot.

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Posted in interests, marketing, TV, UK | No Comments »


Johnny Foreigner might be better at running a car company in Shanghai

12.12.2010

As I made links for the last post, I noticed there were a lot of comments on AROnline about the replacement for the Roewe 750, the Chinese car that is based on the old Rover 75.
   The replacement will be on the Opel Insignia platform, owned by GM. It’s been followed by a lot of cries that are all too familiar to me.
   Most of them are saying that MG is dead, and has been for a long time, underpinned with the sentiment of ‘How dare the Chinese put this car on an American platform?’
   They ignore that some of the design is still done by a British firm and while the physical British input into the next generation of Roewe and MG cars’ production is much more limited than what we see at Jaguar and Land Rover—or, for that matter, Nissan, Toyota, Honda et al—unlike the Japanese brands, the MGs will, at least, continue to bear a brand steeped in British tradition.
   Many brands are not owned by a company incorporated in the country of their founders, and while I often make my choices based on the parent company, the majority of people do not care.
   The comments also seem rather unfair and steeped in some cry of Yellow Peril.
   I wrote on the site, in response to some of them:

   Brands have, for nearly as long as the motoring industry has been around, been acquired by different groups. Are current Vauxhalls “true” British Vauxhalls, because they really haven’t been since GM bought the place in 1925? From the 1930s, Bedfords went on to Chevrolet platforms, yet history does not seem to judge them as harshly as some of us are doing above. They are not the ‘American Bedfords’ or the ‘faux Bedfords’.
   As the world changes, it is only natural that some of these brands will be acquired by countries that do not share the same heritage as Great Britain. As far as I can see, Tata seems to escape the same level of hostility because India was once part of the mighty Empah. As India becomes more confident, and in, say, 2025 when all Jaguar platforms are exclusively engineered there with the help of a non-British car maker (platform-sharing is just as inevitable in the luxury sector), will they be met with the same criticism?
   This is the real world: globalized, with car manufacturers turning to low-cost options where possible. We are connected with internet and intranets. And SAIC is simply leading when it comes to taking an American-owned platform engineered in Germany and putting the ‘Made in China’ stamp on it. Occidental manufacturers have been doing it for years: as Climbsyke points out, Rover did it with Honda platforms …
   Yet we continue to be drawn to these models not because of their Japanese roots, but because they have some connection to the brand, which stirs our emotions. Some of them had the lion’s share of work done in Japan, not Britain, yet that, too, is conveniently overlooked. No one ever mentions the war (which I will now, and China was one of the Allies).
   While some Red Chinese manufacturers are turning out junk that would not get past injunctions waged around intellectual property issues, at least SAIC has some awareness of the history of MG and is willing to acknowledge it. With Roewe, never mind the pastiche-British marketing that it indulges in for the domestic market where these cars are mainly sold; I’m confident that the Shangaiese are more savvy than many of us are giving them credit. An MG is an MG, regardless of the ethnicity of the parent, and regardless of the shouts of the Yellow Peril, as long as its brand values are somehow incorporated.

   What may well happen is that SAIC, MG’s parent, will build up some cash by selling mass-market models, which are, incidentally, doing very well inside Red China.
   Then as the Chinese demand for them takes off (as it is beginning to), it will release a sports car.
   It should rightly concentrate on its domestic market first, and in recessionary times, working on a specialist sports car while the demand is not there just seems foolish.
   When such a sports car arrives, I wonder if the same critics will be there to shout how un-British it is—even if SAIC has to stick it on a Volkswagen platform.
   In my mind, these cars are no more and no less British than the Honda-based models that kept the MG and Rover brands going through the 1980s and 1990s, and it’s inevitable that more unlikely platform- and engine-sharing will happen. Now that the wave of consolidation has ended—Ford and Mazda have announced they are going their separate ways now—you may see very unlikely alliances indeed as the industry deals with supply and margin issues.
   There have already been rumblings about Mercedes-Benz cooperation with Aston Martin; Volvo must look somewhere for a large-car platform if Geely wants to turn it into an even more upscale brand within China; and all sorts of rumours about the platform for the forthcoming Saab 9-2 have been bandied about.
   Given Britain’s own failure in managing its car industry, cries that stick it to Johnny Foreigner have a sour grapes’ tinge to them, but, then, one sees it from the Foreign Office in fact or in fiction:

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Posted in branding, business, cars, China, culture, design, interests, marketing, Sweden, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


Retrograde steps for our cellphones

07.11.2010

Nokia 2730 ClassicLast week, our company’s Nokia 2730 Classics arrived as part of a contract with Telstra Clear, of whom we’ve been a customer since the 1980s. They are a reminder of how technology is regressing.
   Remember that scene in Life on Mars, where Sam Tyler, or Samuel Santos in La chica de ayer, tells Annie Cartwright, Annie Norris or Ana Valverde (depending on which version you saw) how LPs had been replaced by MP3s and digital music, and that the sound is ‘much, much worse’? That’s sort of how I feel with these new gadgets.

Left Not quite the same as ours—the display is different—but this is a publicity shot of the Nokia 2730 Classic. Below Life on Mars’s record shop scene in its various incarnations (from left to right, top to bottom): the UK original in Manchester; the unaired US pilot, set in Los Angeles; the US remake, set in New York; and the Spanish remake, set in Madrid.
Life on Mars music store scenes

   On the surface, the new phones aren’t much to look at. Compared with the 6275i phones that the 2730s are replacing, it’s clear that they are built to a price, cost-cutting for easy manufacture in China rather than Korea. There’s not much of an excuse here for design simplification: this is manufacturing simplification.
   I have reason to be cynical. I’m sure it’s part of a conspiracy to force us to get a nicer model. I remember buying a Microtek scanner for around $600 in the 1990s—probably around 1996—and it lasted me for years, till around 2002 when I ordered an upgrade. I looked at the specs for the latest scanners and thought, ‘Wow, here’s one with a higher resolution going for half the price.’ I brought it back and the scanning quality was total crap.
   I wrote to the distributor in Auckland and they informed me: the equivalent model to my old one is this other machine costing $600. The difference is that the half-price one has a plastic lens and my old one had a glass lens. So if I wanted one with comparable quality, I would need to pay twice as much for one with a glass lens. In other words, it would still cost me $600.
   I bought the glass one and they were as good as their word, although I had to put up with a smaller scanning area (but I got a faster speed). The resolution figure, it turned out, was meaningless, because the actual quality of the product was so poor.
   Technology didn’t really advance in six years. I still had to pay the same price for a machine with actually less capability on the primary function, which was scanning an area of x cm².
   This seems like a repeat. I have yet to try what it’s like as a phone, because the switchover’s not till the 8th, but for many features, it’s poorer. It has a better media player. The speaker for playing music and movies is better. The graphics move more nicely. Nokia supplies some free maps (which, incidentally, get deleted when you eject the memory card, though you can re-download them for free from its website).
   But (and there must be a but given the headline): the camera is worse (judge for yourself below) and the battery life is shorter. I might not be an initié when it comes to cellphones, but I know that people have been using them for telephony and photography for a lot longer than as MP3 and 3GP players. On at least two of the three major criteria on which a cellphone can be judged, the 2730 is worse than the mid-decade 6275i.
   Judge for yourself below. These are photographs (reduced) taken at Massey University’s Blow festival exhibition, currently on at its Wellington campus.

Nokia 6275i
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 2730 Classic
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 6275i
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 2730 Classic
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

   And what is the point of that? Unless Nokia now tells me: if you want the quality of the old one, it’s this other model, which will cost you an extra $300.
   I know there are many exceptions to what I’ve just written. The Asus laptop I type this on is way fancier than one that cost twice as much with a fraction of the power in the mid-2000s. But just because one area of technology marches so rapidly doesn’t mean every area follows suit.

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Posted in business, design, general, New Zealand, technology | 2 Comments »


How MG Rover mirrored the developments at Lada

02.11.2010

I still have Adam Curtis’s The Mayfair Set, a TV series charting the decline of British power and the rise of the technocracy, recorded on video cassette somewhere. I consider him someone who can see through the emperor having no clothes, and in The Mayfair Set, he certainly saw through the Empire having no clothes.
   As I type this, John Barry’s ‘Vendetta’ is going through my head as an earworm: the series used this piece as its theme tune.
   On my friend Keith Adams’s Facebook page was a link to Curtis’s blog at the BBC website, titled with a reference to another song, this time from Maurice Jarre’s Doctor Zhivago score. Curtis begins by saying that he uncovered a 1977 film about two British Leyland workers heading to Togliattigrad, where the Жигули (Zhiguli, or Lada to those of us outside the Soviet Bloc) was built.
ВАЗ-2101   At Togliattigrad, the managers used the chaos that was allowed to prevail to set up their alternative economic structures to line their own pockets—and corruption was rife.
   He writes, ‘What then happened is murky, but it is alleged that the managers in effect looted their own factory.’
   So far, so good. It read as a story about the bad old days of communism—till Curtis draws the clear parallels between Togliattigrad and what happened in the last days of the remnants of British Leyland. The Phoenix Four used money meant for the plant for themselves.
   Curtis again: ‘The Phoenix directors systematically restructured the business. They did it in a way that ensured that many economic benefits flowed not to MG Rover and the thousands of workers, but to the directors themselves and the man they appointed chief executive of MG Rover.
   ‘The [government] report [into the collapse of MG Rover] is over 800 pages—and it is a fascinating snapshot of our time. It lists all sorts of schemes with names like “Project Slag”, “Project Platinum” and “Project Aircraft”—all of them designed to try and bring profits not into MG Rover but into the holding company set up by the Phoenix consortium.’
   No more western superiority here: chaos—whether in the political, social, cultural or commercial realms—breeds opportunity for many. The trick is always to ensure that the opportunists are those who can put things right, rather than selfishly benefit themselves.
Beyond Branding cover   Some might see Curtis’s blog entry as a criticism of the monetarist, technocratic system—as was The Mayfair Set.
   But it is equally a story about how the absence of transparency breeds systems that benefit the few—regardless of whether the background is communism or capitalism.
   These are themes that we at the Medinge Group explored as early as 2003 in Beyond Branding, written in the wake of the Enron collapse. We’ve partly stayed on the same theme over the last eight years, because history shows us that transparency is often the enemy of inequity and unfairness. And even the technocracy.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, leadership, politics, TV, UK | 1 Comment »


Endorsements from Sir Michael Fowler and others—and why the Paul Henry débâcle matters

05.10.2010

Yesterday, as some of you know, Sir Michael Fowler endorsed me, saying that I am the ‘intelligent’ mayoral candidate and he likes the programme I have outlined for our city. It goes beyond what is on my campaign site, of course—the programme includes plans to bring Waterfront Ltd. back under council control, increased transparency through webcasting council meetings, streamlining the processes within the Council, and reviewing Wellington’s asset and risk management (which needs serious work). Most of these have been voiced during the last three weeks of very entertaining debates with my opponents.
   I’m grateful to get the endorsement of a three-term (1974–83) mayor and had the pleasure of campaigning with Sir Michael yesterday up in Brooklyn.
   He is right on many points. The present council is in disarray. And he believes I am more of a unifier. I imagine that is right: in branding, if you are going into a company to redo their strategy, you need unity. If you don’t have it, you need to find a way to create it.
   I was also encouraged by the fact that Sir Michael sees huge value in social networking. ‘You reach a literate, voting population,’ he told me. I am glad he is not as dismissive of technology as at least two of my opponents, who pay IT lip service and little more. He agrees with me that it can help create jobs and give a career pathway for our youth.
   Aside from Sir Michael’s endorsement, those of you who watched Back Benches, listened to Radio Active or watched the video Scoop know that Bernard O’Shaughnessy, one of my opponents, has asked his supporters to back me. I’m very grateful to Mr O’Shaughnessy as well for his support.
   And while it’s not asking supporters to give me their 1, Councillor Celia Wade-Brown has told her supporters to give me a 2 or, at least, a high ranking. I reciprocate that for Councillor Wade-Brown: if we want change, and we can rank our candidates, then please consider a 2 or a high ranking for her.
   Remember that your votes are due in the post by tomorrow (Wednesday). Our own small-sample poll shows that the newspaper one is inaccurate, and suggests that the race is far tighter than has been reported. But the margin of error is also quite large, so if I don’t put much stock in either, I won’t let them sway you. I’ve posted plenty over the last while, more so on Facebook, and I’ve met so many of you in person at the debates and forums, for you to know who the best and most engaged candidate is. One only wishes that more of these were televised!
   Vote with your hearts and minds, but the important thing is: vote.

Yesterday’s mainstream media was more taken with the débâcle surrounding breakfast TV host Paul Henry and his implication that the Governor-General, HE Sir Anand Satyanand, did not look and sound like a New Zealander. He asked the Prime Minister, John Key:

Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time … Are we going to go for someone who is more like a New Zealander?

A strange comment, considering Sir Anand was born in Auckland, has had more years in New Zealand than Mr Henry himself, has a distinguished record of public service, and is definitely a New Zealander through and through. His judicial service is probably as recognized as that of former Governor-General, Sir Michael Hardie Boys.
   What Henry really wanted to say is that you can put in decades being a judge and, for the last few years, our viceregal representative, but if you are ethnic Indian—or, more to the point, not Caucasian—then you’re not “really a Kiwi”.
   As the mayoral candidate who would never get a Paul Henry backing because I look nothing like him, the furore struck a chord. Because there is a racist undercurrent in some circles that Henry represents. Any minority has witnessed it, particularly in areas where minorities have typically not ventured due to the earlier prejudices of a bygone age. I am sorry to note that it is still there and I have even noticed it in this election—fortunately not from the Wellington public, but from some of our establishment institutions.
   TVNZ initially defended the man (saying that he simply vocalizes what is on people’s minds) before suspending him (for a mere two weeks—I Tweeted a 30-day minimum would be appropriate). Henry stood by his comments before apologizing. But it all looks like too little, too late, as was the inaction by the Prime Minister, who critics say should have had Henry up on the comment during the interview.
   If one looks at the outrage on Twitter (a small sample, I know), then Henry is well out of touch with ordinary New Zealanders. He has a responsibility as someone who reaches over 100,000 people. And yesterday, he crossed the line. Intentional or not (and only he will ever know), this sort of thinking has no place on our airwaves except, perhaps, in a drama where Sam Tyler wakes up in 1973 and meets a tobacco-stained, borderline alcoholic homophobe by the name of Gene Hunt.
   As one friend of mine says, Henry has a right to be a dork. However, we are paying for this man’s salary as he is employed by the state broadcaster, and he’s less happy with that. As am I. Make such insinuations in other parts of the civil service, and you’d get a more severe reprimand than a TV network defence and a delayed suspension. Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand would know, and they worked for a state broadcaster, too. At least there, the BBC immediately recognized what was indefensible.

The fallout from the Henry incident—whom my friends note still appeared on telly this morning—included the resignation of Ben Gracewood as the show’s gadget commentator. Ben felt it was the last straw and Tweeted late last night, ‘Do you know what made me quit? I wanted to say this, and then realised I was holding back: what a f***ing cock that Paul Henry guy is.’
   Pop over to Ben’s blog where more of the debate has taken place. I think he did the right thing, and I applaud him for acting and having principles.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, TV, Wellington | 1 Comment »


I need to listen to some Fred Dagg before I go on

11.03.2010

To be confirmed is an interview with the BBC, in my politician guise. I have not been on radio in the other hemisphere for something like seven years, and that time it went to some of the most way-out places (it was UN Radio). I have one reservation only: my accent goes all over the place. Remember how the Rt Hon Jim Bolger went funny with his when foreign dignitaries came and he sounded like he was mocking the foreigners? Or, a few years before, Michael Fay during the America’s Cup lawsuits and his Americanized pronunciation of water?
   Yeah, I do that. And even more disturbingly, I know I do it while I’m doing it, and cannot stop it.
   It’s going to be hell if a northerner interviews me and I start sounding like Jimmy Nail. I am told that I do a very good Lily Savage when I have the ’flu. And if I get a southerner, you will think I was trying to impress Keeley Hawes (which I try to do, anyway, never mind Matthew). Not one is sufficiently “Kiwi” for Wellington voters. Though I might find that British expatriates based in Wellington might suddenly vote for me. Because in any case I will sound better than Harold Wilson.

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Posted in humour, media, New Zealand, politics, UK, Wellington | No Comments »