(james benedict brown) on the road

Unbalanced and smug

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 18 September, 2010

Back in Glasgow, and this news story caught my eye:

Glasgow tourist chiefs hit out over guide
18 September 2010

Glasgow tourist chiefs have hit out at a new guide which claims the city remains blighted by violence, deprivation and unhealthy lifestyles.

The Thomas Cook guide praises the city for its “vibrant” arts scene, high culture, green spaces and shopping.

But it also warns visitors to expect poor weather, sectarianism and alcohol and drug abuse in its deprived suburbs.

Glasgow’s weather is also drawn to readers’ attentions.

It comments: “The city’s rainy reputation is well founded and the likelihood is that you’ll experience more than a few showers, if not a full-on downpour. Going out without an umbrella or a hat is foolhardy, to say the least.”

Scott Taylor, chief executive of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, reacted angrily to the guide, describing it as “unbalanced” and “smug”

We spotted the link to the article at the top of the localised section of the BBC News homepage (screengrab below). Just above Man scarred for life after attack, Gang attack teenager at bus stop, Probation over runaway boy images and Man guilty of Christmas Day death. And any suggestion that it’s always rainy is clearly disproven by an afternoon of “white cloud” ahead of us in the three day forecast.


Auntie ditches another design classic

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 31 January, 2009

Back home, we are very mean to the most senior member of the Brown household, and it’s quite unfair. Just like me, he likes to watch the weather forecast, and does so religiously after the evening news bulletin every night. But he’s a victim of BBC modernisation, since the graphical presentation of the BBC weather forecast is so terrible, he can never remember what the forecast was predicting once it’s finished.

Coming up to four years ago, the BBC abandoned it’s meteorological department’s greatest asset – the ageless design classic that was the set of symbols used to adorn the television weather map. The symbols weren’t modern enough for the Beeb. and they were promptly replaced by a weather map that had no symbols, but instead a graphical simulation of what the weather might actually look like from space. The idea seemed to have been to placate young children who might have been afraid of giant black cloud symbols hovering over entire counties. At the expense of anyone with a black and white television. And while denigrating the status, size and shape of Scotland.

On Monday, the BBC will make the next bold step in insulting it’s audience. This time, there really is no hope for the classic symbols of the old BBC weather map, because the BBC Online Weather pages are being modernised royally screwed over.

Here is an example of the current, and soon to be defunct online weather forecast.


And here is the equivalent part of the new one, currently available online in beta, and live as the default for all weather forecasting from Monday 2 February.


I’ll put the next statement in a paragraph of it’s own, so that the “designer” (self-edit) who came up with the “improved” weather symbols can find it more easily than one can find Aberdeen on the distorted UK weather map.

The weather map icons have been used for more than thirty years because they worked. They are clear. They are simple. They are universal. They can be read in a millisecond. They cannot easily be confused. They can be adapted to reflect many different meterological situations with a single change, and yet retain their legibility. There is nothing wrong with a black cloud, half a sun shining out from behind it, a raindrop and a snowflake beneath it: it describes a typical Glaswegian winter’s day perfectly.


We already tolerate this (above) on our television screens, but with the courteous addition of temperature and wind speed icons. I cannot for the life of me understand this map. It may be technologically impressive, but its usefulness is one minute fraction of the old system.

Will this late night complaint be heard? Maybe. Will anyone who has the power to stop bad visual design at the BBC do anything about it?

No. Not unless a few other mouthy bloggers go on about it, of course :)

Starting as I mean to go on

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 1 January, 2009

A handful of the short term jobs that I have never gone to the trouble of mentioning on my CV have involved night shifts. During one of my less enjoyable years at university, I worked from 22h00 – 06h00 in a petrol station in Sheffield. Then, shortly after graduation, an agency found for me by the Job Centre placed me with a specialist firm that oversaw the opening of new supermarkets. I worked an entire week of night shifts placing Waitrose merchandise on the shelves of a newly refurbished supermarket acquired from the defunct Safeway. This was done so that regular employees could go in on their first day as a Waitrose ‘partner’ and know how the place should look. You may not agree with me on this one, but I don’t believe that any job I have ever had has provided such simple job satisfaction as is found when employed to go through a supermarket aisle lining price tags to products, and turning packages so that bar codes are not visible until the item is taken from the shelf.

Nocturnal employment seems cathartic to me, although the Waitrose job was less so since the bright lights of the supermarket burned twenty-four hours a day. That felt more like being in a huge television set (Supermarket Sweep perhaps). I am not crippled by insomnia, but I do not sleep as peacefully as I would like. As many as six or seven hours can easily be achieved, but once I am awake, it is very difficult to return to sleep, regardless of what time it is.

I have, in recent weeks, blamed Lumpy (one of two cats that cohabits with us) for waking me in the early hours by climbing onto my pillow and then my head – usually around five or six in the morning. I’ve come to realise, however, that she only climbs onto me when she knows that I’m awake and therefore liable to give her a cuddle, scratch or stroke.

This morning, on the first morning of 2009, I was awake before the last reveller had returned home. I was quite content with a modest (a.k.a. “credit crunch”) New Year’s Eve at home, especially since it brought home made pizza, supermarket own-brand “bierre de France” and a modern classic film (“the sky’s beginning to bruise, night must fall and we shall be forced to camp.”) With a reluctancy that is getting ever weaker, I was upright to hear the pips of the six o’clock news and to start the chemistry required by a new bread making machine. The instruction manual that accompanies this device advices me that with the time delay feature, I can wake up to fresh bread. There hardly seems any point, since I will most likely be up early enough to set the machine going myself.

I have, since moving to Glasgow, revisited my nocturnal self. With a daily routine that is establishing itself, so too is an internal rhythm over which I have no control. The strangest thoughts creep into my mind when I wake in the dark early hours, and they can be quite enough to destroy any hope of returning to sleep. If there is a new year’s resolution to be made (and I detest them usually) it is that I will not fight my unforgiving awakeness in the early hours. Making bread, writing letters or reading books will substitute for tossing and turning. I hope.

“Everyone lives on a hill in Sheffield” – Jarvis Cocker

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 5 August, 2008

Jarvis Cocker, the boy from Intake who’s done good (and who now lives in Paris) recently produced a two part radio documentary for the BBC called Jarvis Cocker’s Musical Map of Sheffield. The programmes are being rebroadcast this week, starting yesternight and continuing tonight at midnight on BBC 6 Music. Not only is this a brilliant little trip down an increasingly nostalgic memory lane for me, it’s also a brilliant aural work, very much what I would aspire to one day produce either through the podcast or other means.

Don’t fret if you’ve missed the first episode, because both will be on the iPlayer for a week after broadcast. And don’t fret if you get interupted while listening, because the handy new version of the iPlayer remembers where you were if you accidentally close the window or if your wireless connection burps.

Never say never

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 9 March, 2008


Since he left sunny Northern Ireland for Nashville, Tennessee last year, the podcaster, blogger, photographer and general international-man-of-mystery Jett Loe has been re-adjusting to life in the U. S. of A. Amongst other things, he’s been getting used to American TV once more, and the delights of unreliable digital TV signals.


He’s not alone. Facecrash affects us all, even the eighty-two year old stalwart of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, the Reverend Ian Paisley, as seen here during an interview on BBC Television’s Andrew Marr Show.


The “big man” has announced his retirement, saying in this, his first televised interview, that he intends to take some time to write his life story. Probably just as well, because the pictures really don’t do him justice.