Saturday, December 16, 2006

Blogworld 1, Evening Standard 0

Seeing Stef the Engineer's comment on the previous post reminded me that I've been meaning to write about blog posts I've read that have stuck in my mind.

I might do a proper Review Of The Year In Blogworld later on, but I want to mention this one now, just because it's timely.

Compare these two tales of disaster* survival:

1. My Tornado Hell (from the Evening Standard, via Blue Cat)

2. Stef and the Kobe Earthquake (from Shoot The Messenger)

Any hacks out there still want to claim that journalists are the better storytellers, or that bloggers are the vacuous, self-obsessed ones?


* That's if you subscribe to the view that the Kensal Rise tornado was a 'disaster'. I'm not sure that the loss of a fully insured Cath Kidston carpet and some tangerines is quite in the same league as, say, Hurricane Katrina, but you know what I mean. I'd also be grateful if anyone could provide any insight as to what exactly might have been going on in the mind of Caroline Phillips as she wrote this. Did she really think it was going to inspire sympathy? Admiration? A chick-lit book deal? I'm completely at a loss to understand.


UPDATE: For anyone thinking this article is a spoof, here is an actual picture of it (what I nicked from someone on this forum; thank you, person on that forum!):


38 comments:

BiB said...

Ha! I've just clicked straight from your gent's place here. That article is brilliant. Utterly, mind-blowingly brilliant. I almost can't believe it's true. Is it? But there's a toned down audio version (where she doesn't mention a single material or profession or hotel) in James's comments, so it must be.

Dave again said...

I must admit I'd assumed the tornado story was a spoof.

patroclus said...

I assumed that too, Dave, but the interweb is awash with reports of actual sightings of it in the ES (page 18 and 19 of last Tuesday's edition, apparently). So it is, sadly, as real as you like. Amazing.

BiB: You chose my second favourite line as your favourite. "Juliet heard my cries through the thick Edwardian walls", indeed.

Valerie said...

Wow. Quite a contrast here. The ES article is entertaining, no question. And though clearly there was an emotional experience here, the way she documents seems designed to entertain. It's her job, of course, and I think she succeeds. I thought it was a funny read, but I also got bored halfway through. I hadn't analyzed this, but now that I do, it was probably because I was not emotionally engaged — and in fact, she distances her readers on purpose with her laughing references to her own wealth.

I think what makes the blog post so very powerful is that because it is factual, clear, brief and global (in the sense that he is describing the entire scene around them, not just what he experienced at that moment), the single, carefully selected personal moment becomes magnified and extremely poignant. It's clever, but more importantly it effectively puts everything into perspective. Putting things into perspective is precisely what Phillips opts not to do.

sara said...

My favourite bit is the paranoid schizo needing his medicine, doubtless in her eyes making her locale *down with the kidz*. The other story is just beautiful. Hope Beryl didn't read that.

patroclus said...

I'm thinking 'what if Beryl didn't actually *want* to paint her front door?'. Or suppose she does paint it one day, but she can only afford Dulux, rather than something from Fired Earth? What then? Will the already once-dispossessed Phillipses have to move again? Will they never be allowed to forget the tornado-borne horror? Oh, the humanity!

Anonymous said...

Why is someone standing on their head in the picture? Did their balance organs get scrambled by the tornado?

BiB said...

Must it be Adrian on his head, to show the Loss Adjustor just how traumatised he is, thus justifying a stay in London's only hotel? (Funny. Isn't there a Travelodge on Kilburn High Road?) Or perhaps it was Beryl's great-grandson, Wayne (carpenter), getting up to japes, or Jeffrey from no. 88 (amongst the worst affected) (Loss Adjustor) dealing with trauma in the only natural way.

Urban Chick said...

noooooooooo waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!?

Anonymous said...

Hahaha, brilliant. I love the way she lists everyone's job titles; film producers, advertising execs.

patroclus said...

Yes, again, why? How are these people's jobs in any way relevant? I'm at a complete loss to understand this woman's frame of mind. Unless a terminal lack of perspective and self-awareness are prerequisites for getting a writing job on the Standard.

It could have been a good story, and anyone who loses their home and possessions has my sympathy, but the way she tells it makes it just about impossible to sympathise.

Anonymous said...

Hey. So, presumably, the freaky woman is staying in Claridges now, right? So we can go round and 'loot' her possessions. I really fancy some Christmas clementines.

On a less ridiculous note, congrats on your cult status, Patroclus. Are you going to use your new powers for good, or for eeeevil?

patroclus said...

Ooh! Evil! I shall create an army of evil simulacra, who will precede evilly at my command, while I sit in a big evil chair stroking a cat.

Erm. I mean, like, a real cat. Or a simulacrum of a real cat, at any rate.

Ooh! No! Wait! Good!

Oh, I can't decide.

Stef the engineer said...

*blush*
-gulp-

Now I tried to comment on this once, and it seems to have become lost. I hope it doesn't show up again otherwise I will look very foolish.

In defence of the journalist, I had the benefit of distance (both spatially and temporally) which always helps in judging what's really important. Believe me, at the time we were just as upset by small things - I remember we left a stuffed toy to guard our abandoned possessions when we were evacuated. I still well up. Sniff.

And we are just as superficial regarding recent minor events, which I'm sure in later years will be looked on with better perspective.

In short, in times of personal trauma, avoid blogging and journalism unless you're really, really good.

Stef the engineer said...

Afterthought: I don't remember reading anything similar in the Birmingham Post after the one we had here in Britain's second biggest city.
"My home has always been my sanctuary, a place where I'm guaranteed a decent cup of tea. I sit and watch telly in our front room, like normal people do..."

Spinsterella said...

I also assumed it was an extremely unsubtle but still hilarious spoof when I first saw it on Holy Moly.

Unbelievable.

Spinsterella said...

FYI P, some slightly missing-the-point journalism/blogging overlap stuff here

Anonymous said...

'making members must demonstrate they have worked as professional journalists or undergone training.'

Obviously not training in how to write a comprehensible sentence though.

Tim Footman said...

Stef: OK, we can give the journalist the benefit of the doubt, but the editor who agreed to run the piece (who, presumably, was not suffering from any form of PTSD) should be taken out the back and put out of her misery.

patroclus said...

Thanks Spin. I've been seeing various rumblings about making bloggers more accountable, although the PCC doesn't seem to want anything to do with it. Rightly so in my opinion, for blogs are not media, they are public conversations.

Also I noticed Alistair Campbell coming out in favour of regulating blogs, because apparently they are hotbeds of racism. This is a bit rich coming from the man who memorably slagged off women on his official Labour Party blog, but there you go.

In that article, I find it quite difficult to square 'members [of the MBA] must demonstrate they have worked as professional journalists or undergone training' with 'For bloggers the advantage of joining the MBA could mean they are more likely to get journalistic accreditation and access'. Sounds like a bit of a catch-22 to me.

patroclus said...

*Alastair*

Anonymous said...

When was the article published and has anybody sent them a letter about it yet?

patroclus said...

The Caroline Phillips article? It was published last Tuesday 12th Dec, on pages 18-19. I don't know if anyone's written in, as the Standard doesn't put its stuff online (reactionaries!). Are you planning to write to them, Annie?

The best comment I saw about it online was: 'How did she manage to fit so much designer furniture up her arse? That *is* where she lives, isn't it?' How I laughed.

Charles said...

The reason she writes like that is that she's a property journalist. It's completely obvious if you give it a bit of a Google and end up at findarticles.com.

So you see a devastated house; she sees the ormulu clock that was so chic in the 1970s in pieces over the rather nice carpet that the woman with the retrousse nose kept after their minimalist makeover with the exposed brick walls.

patroclus said...

You say that, Charles, but if (heaven forfend, and all that) you were recounting a similar trauma in the main bit of the Guardian, would you refer to it solely in terms of what it had done to your priceless laptop and wireless router?

chuffy! said...

I notice that Ms.Phillips/Craig Brown *already* has a "brilliant trauma specialist therapist", probably from when Ella punctured her sand-coloured bugaboo in 2004, or possibly from the time she READ HER OWN JOURNALISM, AND HAD A PIERCING, LACERATING (YES, LIKE MANY FALLING SHARDS OF GLASS) JOLT OF THE DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE OF SELF-AWARENESS.

Rhodri said...

As the person who spent an hour typing the whole thing out and sending to a few friends, it's good to see this incredible piece of journalism being passed on and reaching a wider audience. Bravo.

Mangonel said...

'Media Bloggers Association'? Is that how they're spelling 'Tossers' these days?

patroclus said...

Chuffy: I fear that Ms Phillips is beyond help as far as self-awareness is concerned. I doubt that even the mass hysteria that's broken out over this article will bring her to her senses. But if it does, it'll no doubt put some more cash the way of the trauma specialist.

Rhodri: You *are* the trauma specialist and I claim my five pounds!

Mangonel: I don't know about the Media Bloggers Association, but I've always associated the acronym 'MBA' with 'tosser'. With some honourable exceptions to prove the rule, of course.

Tim Footman said...

Name one.

patroclus said...

Erm, all readers of this blog and their spouses are automatically exempt from my equation of MBA with 'tosser'.

Perhaps I'm being unfair. But let's just say the MBAs I've come across have all erred on the side of misogyny, driving of silver cars, spewing of corporate-speak and playing of golf, none of these things calculated to endear them to me.

Marsha Klein said...

"In January, it was to have been shot for Homes & Property"

Hmm, well something (or someone) SHOULD be shot, that's for sure.

patroclus said...

Homes & Property is the Standard's own property rag, right? So is that a perk of being a Standard hack - not only do you get to prattle on for two pages about your tornado-ruined carpet, but you also get to advertise your beautiful home for free in its property pages? Why don't they just go the whole hog and only ever write about their own editorial staff? I hardly recognise the London I know in the Standard as it is.

I'm also beginning to wonder why she was worrying about 'loss of earnings' - she seems to have done quite well out of this caper. Not that a shortage of cash appears to have been a particular problem for the Phillips household.

I'll stop now before I become completely engulfed (or speared, harpooned, vomited, etc.) by bile.

Spinsterella said...

Glutton for punishment I may be, but I've just read her camping piece over on Find Articles.

I thought that perhaps all the very short, very literal sentences and job descriptions were due to perhaps shock.

But no. She writes like that ALL THE TIME.

In fact she even managed to throw in a few universities as well.

Appalling.

james henry said...

I propose some kind of award for Rhodri, for typing above and beyond any normal human parameters.

*salutes*

Anonymous said...

I think it's too late for me to write in now, the moment will have passed.

Did anybody see the letters pages afterwards? Surely somebody wrote to them about it.

BiB said...

Pats, I was mystified by the loss-of-earnings bit too. I know her Peruvian mahogany desk had probably been gone through like an ivory-handled knife through non-salted, vegan butter by a shard of glass the size of the walnut floating shelf, but surely she'd have been able to find a place to settle in with her laptop after a day or two. I can survive a day or two without working, and I spend most of my time being busy being ridiculous, so she must be able to. Unless she means the earnings she was going to get from the house being shot for whatever that magazine was again.

Anyway, we've got bloody good mileage out of her so we must be grateful to her for that at least.

(WV: vomitedclementines. OK, not really.)

Lorna said...

Oh my goodness.

I've always avoided the Evening Standard vendor outside Kings Cross, but if all the articles are like this I may have to start buying it for comic relief on the train.

Most puzzling phrase, for me: "our fragrant cream and lavender garden". What's their garden made of? Soap?