Update: Alexi Mostrous at Tortoise has managed to track down “Bernd Bergmair” after a search that spanned “China, and Austria, Hong Kong and New York” but that apparently ended somewhere in London. The full story will be online in a podcast on Tortoise on Monday.
One of the fun paradoxes of early internet culture was the concept of the “Googlewhack“: a google search query that returns only a single result. Until today, Bernard Bergemar, the largest owner and biggest beneficiary of MindGeek, the company which owns the world’s most trafficked adult website, would almost qualify.
An astonishing investigation by Financial Times reporter Patricia Nilsson reveals that MindGeek’s ultimate owner is someone who barely exists on the internet. At the time of writing, he only exists in two court filings from the early 2010s, and in the Financial Times article published today.
If Succession‘s writers made a documentary, The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty is what you’d get. It covers the rise of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, the brief years in the wilderness after the phone hacking scandal, and his comeback after Donald Trump’s election and Brexit. It shows how much of Rupert Murdoch’s life was guided by his father Keith Murdoch, and how his childrens’ fates are dictated by his. There are so many direct parallels in the business and Logan Roy’s: after Murdoch’s fall on his yacht during negotiations with Disney, the company claimed he was merely “working from home”; there’s the new wife who drives a wedge between the father and his children; and, there’s his dismissive and opportunistic attitude to politics, prime ministers and presidents. It’s full of imagery that appears in Murdoch Dynasty, too, including Super 8 footage of Rupert and his children in the pool in the 1980s, black Mercedes in the Scottish countryside and helicopter pads in lower Manhattan. As for the real life succession, the three part series ends with a drone shot of Lachlan Murdoch’s palace in Beverly Hills. But that’s not the end of the story.
Succession’s creator Jesse Armstrong worked with Veep’s Armando Iannucci on Peep Show, The Thick of It and the first season of Veep, a cynical and knowing workplace comedy about the barely functioning and mostly irrelevant office of the vice president and the awful but loveable people who wield its power.
The Loudest Voice is emphatically not a comedy. Russell Crowe plays the monstrous Roger Ailes, founder of Fox News and executive producer of Donald Trump’s political career, tracking his and his network’s steady rise to the top of cable news in the US. The slow burning style of this seven part series (with the exception of the dramatic second episode) makes it incredibly satisfying to see him being brought down by the brave and wily Gretchen Carlson, played by Naomi Watts. There are many crossovers with Succession including several scenes shot in the same locations, and not least the epilogue dedicated to his successor Bill Shine. Where is he now? Working for Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, of course.
A real life Wolf of Wall Street story which won’t end until its fugitive protagonist fixer Jho Low is brought to justice, this documentary shows how dogged journalism and brave activists exposed corruption at the heart of the Malaysian government, and how Western finance and Hollywood bent over backwards to get its cut of the dirty money. The most compelling moments include the Blackberry messages as Jho Low procured an “18 carrot [sic] pink heart diamond” for the wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, and the intrepid Alex Ritman of Hollywood Reporter confronting Robert De Niro about his son’s Raphael’s role in selling $55 million worth of real estate for Jho Low.
This investigative documentary offers shocking new details about the alleged close relationship between convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and the Queen’s favourite son Prince Andrew. Epstein’s connections to powerful figures from the worlds of science, technology and politics are troubling but not unsurprising: a ticket to the world of unimaginable luxury, wealth and privilege is available to anyone who can pay the price. No legal checks, due diligence or even common sense appear to be required to get an entry to this club of billionaires, media moguls and tech innovators. If you’re careful, you can also see the Queen’s press team reacting to this documentary by placing soft touch stories about the Queen’s cameo at the Olympics and seeding doubts about the veracity of the photograph of Prince Andrew with Virginia Roberts Giuffre and the snap of him with Jeffrey Epstein in New York in December 2010 (which originally featured in the now defunct News of the World).
Worth it just to relive the moment Tom met Cousin Greg.
More Succession alternatives
The Insider– Michael Mann’s gripping drama about Big Tobacco and the investigative journalist who gets a whistleblower to speak out, which pivots midway into a gritty and tense depiction of corporate pressure in American television news. Watch The Insider now on YouTube
It’s 5AM on Valentine’s Day, and you’ve got a problem. Your partner is soundly asleep, oblivious to the fact that you have yet to write a message in the Valentine’s Day card that they are very shortly to receive.
First, the good news: you physically have a card in your possession, thanks in part to the train station M&S and a last minute reminder from Lynn at the office (what a lifesaver!). You’ve also managed to wake up early and get to another room without alerting your significant other, like some kind of romantic ninja who hates to plan ahead.
But what now? What do you actually *write* in your Valentine’s Day card? That question has brought you here, to a blog post written by a journalist who noticed that lots of people search “What to write in Valentine’s Day card” at 5AM on Valentine’s day. Writing a letter to your lover, your partner or your significant other is simple with this helpful guide…
Step one: Don’t panic
Just imagine how the people who forgot to buy a card are feeling.
Step two: What to write in Valentine’s Day card
First off, this kind of grammar really won’t fly. If you’re going to write anything this morning, you have to write. in. complete. sentences. And definitely don’t start with a joke about how the first thing you did this morning was Google, “What to write in Valentine’s Day card.” This isn’t a best man’s speech.
Step three: Think
I know this is difficult without coffee – and you have a seriously pressing deadline – but thinking is key to writing a successful Valentine’s day card.
Close your eyes and think about your partner. What do you like about them? How do they make you feel on a good day? Make a list of these fond feelings on your phone or on the back of an envelope (you do have a pen, right?).
(Note: If at this stage nothing comes to mind, maybe writing a card isn’t the most pressing problem in your relationship.)
Step four: Do your research
Look around you. Are there any pictures of the two of you together? Do you remember anything about that moment, or from that day in the sun? Read some of your early Whatsapp messages from your honeymoon phase. Think about what things you have coming up together that you might be looking forward to. Anything specific is good.
Step five: Write a draft and read it back
Since it’s very early and you’re probably tired, writing a draft is key. You’ve only got one chance.
For the beginning and end of the card, you can borrow some simple and well established formats. Start your letter with “Dear [Insert partner’s name or nickname here],”. End your letter by saying you love them. Leave them kisses if you like.
That leaves the middle bit, where you should form a few sentences that combine some of those positive thoughts and feelings with a reminder of a past moment where you felt in love, and maybe a mention of an upcoming engagement where you will be together. A helpful technique in all form of writing is to say what you want to write in your head, and then write that down. If you love them, say how much you love them.
Then: write that all of that into a draft. Read the draft to yourself. Change anything that doesn’t sound like something you might say.
Key thing to get right: the spelling of your partner’s name.
Step six: Write on your card
This bit’s easy. Take a pen (ideally black, definitely not a biro, and no, a pencil is not acceptable) into your hand and carefully write your final draft in your best handwriting. A smudge or a small correction is fine.
You’ve got this.
Step seven: Make your partner a cup of tea, bring them the card and while looking them in the eye say the words “Happy Valentine’s day”
TikTok isn’t just lip dubs, pranks and pouting teenagers. It can also be clever interpretations of Latin songs, political and historical messages about inequality, racism and Communism, and chemical formulas for exothermic reactions.
In the late 1700s Oxford had a climate similar to that of present day Edinburgh. Source: The Times
Commercial airline pilots sometimes greet fellow pilots at cruising altitude by flashing their landing lights. Source: FT
Sesame Street has a venture capital firm. Source: The Times
Japanese researchers once invented a wasabi fire alarm which can wake deaf people up in the night. Source: Quartz
Moby is the great-great-great-nephew of Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, hence the nickname. Source: The Times
The first cultivated carrots were purple and yellow, not orange. Source: Pop Sci
Ciabatta bread was invented in 1982 by an Italian jealous of the popularity of the French baguette. Source: The Guardian
The word “blazer” comes from the colour of the red ivy flowers growing on the side of the St John’s College building, Cambridge University, which the rowers of the Lady Margaret Boat Club used as inspiration for their outfits. Source: The Telegraph
In parts of New Orleans the graves are overground concrete tombs because of the city’s water level. Source: Itotd
Until 1987 it was common to operate on newborn babies without anaesthetic. Source: The Times
Reuters News Agency was founded in 1850 with a flock of 45 messenger pigeons which filled a “telegraph gap” between Brussels and Aachen in western Europe. Source: Reuters
Sharks have been around for at least 420 million years and survived four of the “big five” mass extinctions. Source: New Scientist
Ordnance survey, the UK mapping company, was set up because the English were worried about revolutions in Scotland and France and wanted to know where they could easily transport their troops in case of war. Source: Ordnance Survey
Mosquitos may have killed half of the 108 billion people who have ever lived across our 200,000 year existence. Source: New Scientist
Only 20 per cent of Americans can do a single push-up. Source: The Atlantic
Fanta was developed in Nazi Germany in response to an embargo on Coca-Cola. Source: The Local via Frank Swain
Gold smugglers have set up fake gold mines in Uganda which are designed to legitimise gold that’s been smuggled in from Congo. Source: The Economist
Over millions of years of chimp and human evolution there have been, on average, six changes to the roughly three billion letters in our genetic code every year. Source: The Guardian
Spandex, the material used in most leggings, was invented during the Second World War when the military was trying to find a new material for parachutes. Source: The Guardian
Almost all bananas sold today are direct descendants of one plant grown in the early 1800s in the greenhouse of Chatsworth House in the peak district. Source: BBC News
The Nike “Just Do It” slogan was inspired by the last words of a murderer who was about to be executed by firing squad. Source: New Yorker Mar 18 2019
The brain consumes about a fifth of a person’s metabolic energy each day. Cooking was essential for human evolution, because it means we don’t need to spend all day chewing — unlike chimps. Source: 1843 Magazine
Swatch once invented a new unit of time for the internet called the “beat” which split the day into 1000 parts. Source: BBC News
More nuclear bombs have been dropped on or have exploded in or above American soil than on that of any other country in the world. The true scale of US nuclear testing (1,054 tests in total) was unknown publicly until May 1993. Source: Emmet Gowin in The Nevada Test Site
Quorn, the “original” meat replacement product based on starch and protein, took decades to develop and cost £2 billion in today’s money to develop. Source: The Bottom Line
Tom Hanks is related to Abraham Lincoln. “The maiden name of Lincoln’s mother, Nancy, was Hanks, and yes, it’s the same Hanks.” Source: The New York Times
One of the major causes of plane crashes in Israel and Lebanon are bird strikes caused by migrating pelicans and hawks flying to Africa every spring and back again in the autumn. The Israeli Air Force has lost many aircraft to flocks of birds which are too small to be picked up on radar. To prevent this, Israel and Lebanon have an arrangement involving birdwatchers who warns each other’s air traffic control about migrating flocks. Source: TAUVOD
This “bug” was allowing people to use Google’s advertising network to set up sites that charged to file visa waivers. Instead of going directly to the US Government’s website – which still costs about $14 – they would charge users up to $99 for “checking” their application.
The problem was first identified in 2009. It wasn’t “fixed” until 2018, eight years later.
I even fell for it in August 2009:
Why did it take so long?
Google’s solution to this problem – like a hammer which only sees nail – was to “develop a machine learning process to wipe out unofficial Esta ads.”
That process took eight years.
In the meantime, countless numbers of people were paying over and above what they should have for entering their details into a very simple online form.
Of course, Google met its minimum standard obligation of investigating and taking down any links that users reported were incorrect, but the companies taking advantage of Google’s incompetence could very simply edit the domain name and resubmit, a relatively trivial operation.
The BBC even sent some unofficial ads to Google, which its algorithms dutifully allowed to be displayed.
Now apply this problem to media savvy terrorist attacks
A Google mindset of do it first, collect data, and improve it over time (or Facebook’s “move fast and break things”) has dramatic consequences when more malicious operators take advantage of their weaknesses.
Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have all been far too slow in taking down videos of the New Zealand terrorist attack. Even though they all have large, dedicated and sophisticated moderation teams seeking to remove this information, they are unable to stop people re-uploading videos.
The obvious question is, why don’t technology companies do it manually? I agree with Alex Hern who says, they could have, “one person – just one – to sit there searching for ‘New Zealand terror attack’ and just delete the obvious reposts that keep popping up on that search term.”
So why don’t they do it? I also agree with Alex’s reason, that they have, “a desire to build scalable systems rather than one-off applications of human labour.”
Technology solutions: -Create a new algorithm to identify suspect terrorist uploads -Use content ID matching algorithms -Use AI-enhanced moderation
Human solutions: -Disable video uploads temporarily -Manually delete videos -Employ editors to approve questionable content first
Technology companies can’t fix every problem with an algorithm
Just as big tech doesn’t invest in ideas that don’t “scale”, they won’t invest in solving problems unless there’s a scalable solution. Technology companies think they can “fix” unsolvable problems with maths. They think they can “fix” the problem of terrorists sharing their content with an algorithm, just like they can “fix” the problem of people being scammed for ESTA forms.
As the ESTA example show, they can’t.
Humans might not be as fast than algorithms, but they’re cleverer, and technology companies need to wise up too.
Print magazine covers are having a bit of a renaissance. Perhaps it’s the fact that the Instagram-loving public cares and understands more than ever what goes into a good image, or that global political turmoil has given editors and designers more material, but it definitely feels like there’s growing emphasis on striking and adventurous imagery on magazine covers.
AdWeek recently, and rather cynically, suggested that in the US, a decline in magazine newsstand sales has led to a corresponding emphasis on more exciting and adventurous covers aimed at subscribers. Whatever the reason, there’s been copious discussion lately about magazines on social media. It’s also been the subject of two events that I’ve been lucky enough to attend.
The other week I went to a very interesting talk on the topic of great magazine covers, chaired by Ian Birch, the former editorial director of Hearst who has recently released a book about this subject, Uncovered – Revolutionary Magazine Covers. It also included Penny Martin, the editor of the Gentlewoman, Paul McNamee, editor of The Big Issue, and Robin Derrick, former creative director of British Vogue who is now pursuing a beauty project.
The talk comes a few weeks after a brilliant Somerset House exhibition on British independent magazines, “Print! Tearing It Up”, where I picked up a small poster of Paul Gorman’s “mindmap” of British magazines, which connected It to Suck, Blast to Crash!, The Face to New Musical Express and Private Eye to Passing Wind. (It reminded me a bit of Jeremy Deller’s “History of the World / Acid Brass 1997“.)
That excellent exhibition, which mostly focused on how independent magazines influenced mainstream publishers, introduced itself by saying that reading a magazine, smelling the ink and flicking through its glossy pages is “one of the great pleasures in life.” What Ian Birch’s discussion at the British Library argued is that without a good cover for that magazine you would never have picked it up in the first place. Here are some selected thoughts and notes from that talk, which I hope you might find useful.
Magazines aren’t magic
As Robin Derrick said in the discussion at the end, “It was Nick [Coleridge, chairman of Condé Nast Britain] who said [magazines] are bought on station forecourts with a sandwich and a packet of crisps.” They need to grab the reader’s attention and satisfy a need, in this case a need for a bit of entertainment for a train journey. When I have the time to buy and read a magazine, it’s often when I’m travelling. If I have an international flight I love to pick up a New Yorker or another glossy, and often it’s the cover or cover lines that will make me decide whether to pick up a copy. Robin later hammered this home by saying, “People at Vogue think they work in fashion. They don’t, they work in publishing.” Hmm.
I also liked Paul McNamee’s practical thoughts about covers. When he found himself deciding to put Bob the Big Issue cat in a Santa hat on the cover of the magazine for the Christmas issue, he said, “I’m a commercial editor. When we put that cat on the cover, it goes like crazy. There are no rules. If the cat works for you, put it on the cover. Not every week though. That might get a little tired.” He did admit, though, that he had another cat cover in his bag, planned for publishing within a few weeks.
Magazine covers can be markers for political progress
Ian Birch dwelled for a minute on International Times (It), “the newspaper of resistance” and Britain’s first underground paper. Talking about his March 1969 cover featuring an interracial couple kissing — which was still a taboo at the time — then-editor Peter Stansill said, “This might have been a provocative cover, but not to us. I never asked anybody outside of our readership what they thought about it. It was of no interest to me whether it would be accepted or not in the wider world. There were no cover lines, no accompanying story, it was just let’s send a visual message.” That’s certainly a common theme in what makes a great cover: an absence of cover lines, and letting a strong image do the talking. Also, read this excellent story by the photographer Horace Ové, who was the first black director to make a full length feature film in Britain, Pressure, in 1975.
Great magazine covers echo a feeling
Robin Derrick’s favourite cover of all time is also one of the most simple. British Vogue’s October 1945 cover was no more than a painting of a blue sky with a few clouds and haze, signifying the end of the second world war. After half a decade of twisting contrails left behind by bombers and fighters striking through the sky, the sky evokes a feeling of freedom which must have felt completely correct to people at the time. Derrick said it’s one of the few magazine covers he can think of that is of a blue sky. I can only think of one other, which happens to cover the same event: Time magazine’s July 1985 cover showing the cloud after the Trinity test, marking the 40th anniversary of Hiroshima and the birth of the Atomic age.
Are commercial ideas killing great magazine coverlines?
Gentlewoman editor Penny Martin made a point about the influence of digital formats on magazines, particularly in the women’s market. Despite being the former digital editor for Nick Knight’s SHOWStudio, she said, “I think there’s been a misunderstanding where magazines are chasing the digital form and they’re trying to replicate the tone and the content of what’s online. I think they should draw back from that and [do] the opposite. Because you know what you want when you’re doing that [mimes using a smartphone], don’t you?”
She also decried the tendency of copy in the fashion industry to mimic e-commerce styles. She said, “People are speaking to readers as if they are consumers. It’s to do with the dominance of e-commerce. Especially in my sector, where there this whole shoppable content thing, this nonsense that kind of hijacked the argument meant that now people are writing copy as if you’re talking to a shopper. It’s just so patronising. People underestimate how sophisticated the audience is.”
Great magazine covers are collaborative
Finally, some thoughts from me about how I’ve seen the process of magazine covers change. Today, it’s quite common to see editors and art directors taking a collaborative approach to selecting a cover, or at least being a bit more open about the process.