Saturday, February 28, 2009

How many months of the year have thirty days in them?

That was Question 6 on yesterday's edition of the CBBC quiz show Get 100. "It may not be as straightforward as it sounds," said presenter, Hardeep. With a puzzled expression on her face contestant Siobhan asked "is it four?"

"It's not four," said Hardeep, as he moved on to the next contestant. Harrison suggested three as an answer, Samantha said five, and Lucy's guess was six.

"The answer is eleven. That's a trick question," Hardeep explained, "because eleven months have thirty days. Some have more than thirty days, but eleven have at least thirty days."

What's CBBC up to? It looks like they're giving lessons on how to cheat and deceive. Next thing you know they'll shut down half of the message boards and tell kids it's part of improvements to the website.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I came across this post on Newsround's Showbiz message board. I don't watch CBeebies so I'd never heard of Cerrie. I did a quick google and found out more about her.

Ironically, the Daily Mail, which just a few weeks ago was running what amounted to a vicious hate campaign against gay people adopting, now has a piece entitled It's not Cerrie Burnell who's a threat to children - it's their bigoted parents.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The shocking 'not guilty' verdict in the case of Michael Causer prompted a protest outside Liverpool Crown Court on Sunday. A large crowd of people expressed their shock and outrage. Whilst the local press had given some coverage to the crime and trial, there was very little interest elsewhere.

The Independent reports Stonewall's Ben Summerskill as saying "It is testament to the lack of seriousness with which these kinds of incidents are treated. They are simply not regarded as newsworthy. The BBC has reported every single murder of an adolescent in the past 18 months in this country as a national news story, but not this one."

Ben Summerskill could be right up to a point. There is a pervasive atmosphere of homophobia in society, exemplified by this detestable verdict as well as the national media's reluctance to report the injustice.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Causing confusion

Kids could be forgiven for being rather confused about where they stand with CBBC's Newsround at the moment. For a start loads of message boards were closed down in December, in a move which the BBC described as an improvement. And Newsround has normally made a point of not reporting on films with certificate 15 or 18.

When, yesterday, Newsround asked which films would win at your Oscars? their web page stated that most of the nominations were for "long, boring films that you lot aren't allowed to see."

But today the programme reported on awards for two certificate 15 films, Slumdog Millionaire and The Reader, which they'd seemingly put down in such a patronising way.

Sonali: It was the Oscars last night and British talent came out on top. Slumdog Millionaire won eight awards....

It's not clear whether kids who had seen any certificate 15 films could mention them as part of the feedback or on the message boards. But, to my mind, and I'm sure to lots of kids also, Newsround is a bit mixed up at the moment.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

LGBT History Month - Michael Causer

Michael Causer, a gay teenager living near Liverpool, was the victim of a homophobic hate crime last year. Yesterday, despite overwhelming evidence, Gavin Alker was acquitted of killing Michael.

Monday, February 16, 2009

LGBT History Month - Samuel Delany

Samuel Delany is an academic, literary critic and science fiction writer who has made extensive and innovative contributions to the sci-fi oeuvre, including The Einstein Intersection and Triton. Also known as Chip Delany he was born in April 1942 and raised in New York. He married Marilyn Hacker, a poet, in 1961 and they have one daughter. He had met his future wife in High School - Bronx Science - which continues to attract gifted students.

Marilyn Hacker identifies as lesbian, and Chip Delany as gay since his adolescence. He's written of his experiences as a black gay man on several occasions, including in The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village, where he describes meeting WH Auden, Bob Dylan and Albert Einstein, as well as his experiences in an open marriage.

Hazel Carby, who is Professor of African American Studies at Yale, uses Delany's The Motion of Light in Water to present some alternative approaches to challenging heterosexual norms pursued by gay men. In Race Men she characterises Delany's work as absolutely central to any consideration of black manhood. The Lambda Book Report chose Delany as one of the fifty most significant men and women of the past hundred years to change our concept of gayness.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Internet safety and BBC children's services

Yesterday was EU Internet Safety Day, and Newsround gave some helpful advice to kids about how to stay safe online. This report was from the BBC One programme at 5pm -

(studio) Sonali: Loads of us chat to our mates online. For most of us it's a great way to stay in touch, but for Georgia it turned into a complete nightmare. She was bullied on social networking sites, and has been telling Maddy all about it.

(video report) Maddy: Georgia was bullied online for about six months. Girls she'd known for ages started sending her nasty messages on MSN and Bebo.

Georgia: They were calling me fat and making me believe that I was fat. And it would just carry on from there. Stuff like "if you hate Georgia sign here." And she would get people to sign stuff and make hate mail. When my mum and dad went out and I would shut the door, close the curtains, turn the lights off and make sure it was all dark, and I would just scream to get all my anger out of me.

Maddy: Most kids don't get as badly bullied as Georgia, but it is a big problem. You're not exactly going to chuck your computers away though. So how do you make sure what you're doing in cyberspace is safe?

Boy: If you're gonna go on Bebo or MSN, add people you know and trust.

Girl: I think we could have it in the living room so your mum and parents can watch over you. And it's simpler, so they know what you're doing and see if you're safe. And if you're not they can tell you to come off of that.

Maddy: Seventeen social networking sites have just promised to do more to protect people who use them. If you still end up being bullied, the advice is tell someone. Save the messages and don't reply to any of them.

Georgia: My message to anyone that's being bullied is to speak up. Tell your mum, your dad, it may feel awful but it's something you've got to do, you can't go through it alone. And the message to the bullies - it's not big, it's not clever, and you may think it's a bit of fun, it's a joke, it's really not to the bully victim. It means everything to them.

(studio) Sonali: Well, if you're worried about being bullied on the 'net, head over to our website for more advice.
The trouble is that at the end of last year CBBC closed down lots of safe and well used message boards, describing the changes as improvements. No kids were fooled, however, and there were hundreds of complaints about the closures. Newsround apparently didn't have enough time to investigate.

I requested that the BBC Trust look into this as part of their consultation into children's and young people's services. They refused to countenance my suggestion.

The first part of the Trust's consultation was published yesterday, though not reported by Newsround despite a major publicity drive on CBBC in the autumn to get feedback from under 12 year olds.

Amongst the Trust findings was that programmes like Newsround and Blue Peter are losing audiences.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

LGBT History Month - Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk was an American politician, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. He was born in May 1930 in Long Island, New York and had an older brother called Robert. In his early years he was guarded about being gay and stayed in the 'closet' to his family. He qualified as a maths teacher and joined the US Navy as a diver after graduation.

Milk tried to keep his New York romantic life separate from his family and work. Later he thought of moving to Miami to marry a lesbian friend to have ... a front & each would not be in the way of the other. By nature a right of centre conservative, Harvey was heavily influenced by the counterculture of the sixties and grew his hair long. He decided to move to San Francisco, California with his younger partner Scott Smith when he was about 40. Together they opened a camera shop in Castro Street called 'Castro Camera.'

San Francisco had been an epicentre for the hippie culture of the sixties, and LGBT economic power was growing in the seventies. Milk, now openly gay, became a passionate advocate of equal rights, and decided to fight for them politically. By this time there were estimated to be between 100,000 and 200,000 LGBT people in San Francisco and many of Harvey's opponents were also gay. But in contrast to the I'm a businessman who happens to be gay attitude, Harvey proclaimed we don't want sympathetic liberals, we want gays to represent gays. He realised that radical change was needed to eliminate prejudice and discrimination.

There is a biography of Harvey Milk called The Mayor of Castro Street. An acclaimed film of his life, Milk, was released recently.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

LGBT History Month - Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

Today's LGBT History Month personality is the new prime minister of Iceland, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. Although only an interim leader, many see her appointment as a milestone. Up until now, says the BBC News website, should a lesbian or gay man have been prime minister they'd have done their best to conceal the fact.

Some believe that Margaret Thatcher's predecessor as Tory party leader, Edward Heath was gay although Mr Heath never publicly confirmed this. Another British PM from much earlier, William Pitt the Younger, was also rumoured to be gay. Considering that LGBT people make up a significant percentage of the world's population there have no doubt been many other LGBT heads of government and heads of state around the world throughout history. Even today, for some, it's difficult to be open and honest about LGBT lives and circumstances.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was born in Reykjavik in October 1942. She worked as a flight attendant and was active in the trade union movement before being elected to the Icelandic parliament as a Social Democrat in 1978. She is divorced and has two sons, and lives with her partner, Jónína Leósdóttir, who is an author and playright.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

LGBT History Month - Greta Garbo

The first day of LGBT History Month, and Newsround Blog will be marking the event. I'm not sure the same will be true of Newsround itself but let's hope so.

Greta Garbo was a star in silent movies of the 1920s. She was born on the Stockholm island of Södermalm in September 1905. She had an older brother Sven, and an older sister Alva. Her earliest films were made in Sweden, but it is her work in the United States for which Greta Garbo is most famous. Grand Hotel was in effect an archetype of modern-day TV soaps. In it Garbo portrays a ballerina with depression and self-doubts. She wants to be alone, but falls in love with a man who turns out to be a thief.

Another of Garbo's great roles is Queen Christina, directed by Rouben Mamoulian. In the first still below Queen Christina is seen kissing her lady-in-waiting, Countess Ebba (played by Elizabeth Young).

Greta Garbo
The picture on the right is from the outstanding final scene of Queen Christina, as the camera zooms in on Garbo's face. Bereft, she seems like the figurehead of a ship setting out on a forlorn journey.