Monday, March 5, 2012

UFO in Alderley Edge, Cheshire

These are two pictures I took in Dickens Woods, in Alderley Edge, Cheshire on the 3rd of March at about 2.45pm in the afternoon.

This is the URL of the location:

They were taken approximately within about 15 seconds of each other on an iPhone 4:

Picture 1

Picture 2

I then reviewed the pictures.

I cannot categorically say what the bright light is between the trees. I know it isn't the sun, the moon or anything else I recognise.

I doubt it is lens flair as there's no consistency of that across the two images & when I examine the light closely it has a defined form.

There was no noise to suggest an aircraft was nearby and the sky was clear when I took these pictures.

Any thoughts?


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Favourite Songs of 2011

It's that time of the year again and time for a list of some of my favourite songs of the year, and in truth it's been a good year for new music so here's a few that have been played more than a few times on my iPod....

Low – Try to Sleep - Video link

Brilliant track from a great album and from a band who steadfastly refuse to change; the world is a much better place for them.

Jean Claude Gavri - (I Hear) Musik In The Street - Video link

Currently dominating my iPod, Gavri is creating superbly listenable dance music.

Joe Goddard Ft Valentina – Gabriel - Video link

Hot Chip man Joe Goddard shows his credentials with this summer anthem

The Horrors – I can see through you - Video link

The Horrors surprised with another change in direction and produced a superb 80’s Goth inspired classic

Psychemagik - SoundCloud page

Too many songs to narrow it down to just one, enjoy this maestro at work by listening to his Soundcloud page.

Death in Vegas – Your Loft My Acid - Video Link

An eerie slice of electro loveliness from DIV that will have fans rejoicing at their return.

The Japanese Popstars – Take Forever - Video Link

Robert Smith adds a slice of vocal brilliance to this track from another band burgeoning with talent and keen to show the darker side of dance can equally captivate.

Jane’s Addiction – End to the Lies - Video Link

Another welcome return and what a song, a absolute assault on the ears that shows no sign of abating from the first chord to the last.

TV on the Radio – Will Do - Video Link

The loss of bassist Gerard Smith was desperately sad, so difficult to choose any one track from a fine album but this is one of the standouts.

DJ Shadow Ft Little Dragon – Scale it Back - Video Link

Brilliant track featuring another extraordinary talent in Little Dragon, the beat master’s showing no signs of mellowing on another great album.

There's many who haven't made the list and for those apologies but acts such as Little Dragon, I Break Horses & Foster the People have also provided us with some great music.

We've also lost many great musicians this year, Mick Karn, John Barry, Gerard Smith, Amy Winehouse and Gerry Rafferty are just a few amongst those who passed away this year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

London Riots Solved: Bring Back National Conscription

So there we have it, what started out as a peaceful demonstration against the shooting of a man in Tottenham has spiralled out of control into three nights of rioting that has now spread to other parts of the country.

And the commentators opinions being aired on the news vary from those wishing to condemn society for creating this situation and the fact that these people are the great ignored to those who feel this has nothing more to do with anything than criminality and opportunism.

As ever there seems to be a load of comments offering up reasons as to why these riots occurred but very little in the way of solutions; and not just ones to placate the people taking part in these riots either. It is as if people are afraid to put their suggestions on the table for fear of being pilloried for appearing to be too radical or insensitive to the situation.

Perhaps neither set of opinions are right but from the coverage I have seen one thing is for certain these rioters aren’t doing this for a statement; if it is then it is a fashion statement. They know the difference in value between looting a Poundstretcher or B&M Bargains and looting a JD Sports or an Armani shop.

To me what has evolved from that peaceful demonstration outside the Tottenham police station has nothing to do with the shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham last week and everything to do with a coordinated spate of opportunism as people group together and take advantage of that incident for their own means.

The majority of the rioters caught on camera appear to be young, masked and extraordinarily knowledable about designer brands of footwear and clothing; there is no cause to be fought for here, just bundles of designer gear and cash.

So what possible solution can be tabled to stop this happening again?

There seems to be a lot of people on the various comment boards and social networking sites saying these rioters have nothing to lose and are a lost generation forgotten by society; fine then let’s give them something to aim for in their lives.

I see it as a gradual erosion of authority undermined by a small minority of school children who see the media-dominated landscape in which we live full of people (I shall refrain from calling them celebrities) making a living out of being basically good at very little apart from keeping themselves in the public eye, from which they somehow make a living; the Big Brother generation perhaps?

Young, impressionable children who watch these shows and aspire to the lifestyle seem to give up on their studies believing they can follow in their heroes footsteps and as a consequence leave school with little or no education and very little in the way of prospects. If they fail then society, via the benefits system and other mechanisms will bail them out so what is their risk?

I know I am simplifying the situation here but I think we have all seen enough young children on TV talk about their desire to become a WAG, a singer on X-Factor or a reality TV show star to grasp what is happening to these young, impressionable minds.

I would propose this: if you leave school at 16 or 18 then you either go to college, get a training placement, get a job or you go into some form of national conscription where you will learn a skill.

Being sat at home on benefits is not an option. So if you fail at school you have a choice of these options and hopefully you will be able to regain your self esteem and a skill that will provide you with employment and respect.

National conscription needn’t mean just going into the military either. It could mean working for the voluntary services, helping others in society who are in need of assistance and gaining respect in your community for participating in schemes that put back rather than just take out.

I know this is a very simplistic view but in principle and with a lot of debate and structure I think this is a sound basis from which we can build and stop our children leaving school and just sliding into a nothingness of an existence and make them more responsible for their own destiny rather than blaming everyone else.

Follow me on Twitter @mcollinsblog

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rebekah Brooks: The World's Most Famous Red Head?

Legend has it that red headed people have a reputation for being fiery, adventurous and unafraid.

They can also be bold and mischievous.

Judging by this picture we can also add occasionally scary to the list as well.

Well that's enough of the compliments because the woman who quite possibly holds the dubious honour of being the world's most famous red head title is now without a job having announced her resignation today at News International's Wapping HQ.

It is alleged that it was offered last week but only announced today after the Murdoch's bitter battle to keep hold of their own human shield floundered under a barrage of criticism from all sides of the political spectrum and public revulsion.

However the motive for accepting her resignation is unclear. Only last night News Corporation's second biggest shareholder, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Alsaud, being interviewed on Newsnight was adamant that if Brooks' involvement in the hacking scandal was proven then "for sure she has to go, you bet she has to go"; money has never been far from the Murdoch's heart when making decisions so this latest chapter in the story could have been the deal breaker for Brooks' future with the company.

In another extraordinary move, this time announced by James Murdoch, News International will be running full page adverts in the national press this weekend apologising for the phone hacking scandal.

"We will apologise to the nation for what has happened. We will follow this up in the future with communications about the actions we have taken to address the wrongdoing that occurred. We are also sending letters to our commercial partners with an update on the actions we are taking," he said.

We all know that times are hard in the newspaper industry and the money would be welcome but surely by doing business with the Murdoch empire and placing these adverts is it not a slight hypocrisy?

So all eyes will be on next Tuesday when the Culture Committee hearing begins and no doubt more revelations are brought out in the open in this extraordinary saga.

You can follow me on Twitter @mcollinsblog

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Revolution will not be Televised (At least not by Murdoch)

I've never been a big fan of mass demonstrations; they always seemed pointless and only served to inflame the situation and in truth push the goals they were hoping to achieve further away as politicians dug in their heels, too scared to be seen as weak and bow down to the demonstrators.

The sight of thousands of people waving Socialist Worker placards annoyed me as well. In truth the Socialist Worker seems to put its name to almost any demonstration in the hope that they will get onto the TV, but as the party has very little influence in the real world of politics in which we live, it all seems rather pointless.

Not that I'm saying socialism is dead or irrelevant, far from it, I just find that sometimes people attach themselves to causes for their own gain rather than that of the demonstrators.

So with that in mind and the recent demonstrations against the spending cuts fresh in the memory you could be forgiven for thinking that as the phone hacking scandal got into gear at the beginning of last week this would also blow over and eventually subside into a wave of public apathy; not a chance.

One key factor behind the huge upsurge in public opinion was how the scandal mutated from the hacking of celebrities and MP's phones, many of whom court the very people who were turning against them in their papers, to hacking phones of victims of some of the most high profile crimes over the past decade; these violations of privacy ignited an outcry of public revulsion to a level we may never see again.

And it was this outcry that gained momentum as revelation after revelation came to light and the public began to see the full extent of what NI was up too. This, it has to said, is almost solely down to the excellent investigative work carried out Nick Davies of the Guardian, the man who continued to pursue the hacking scandal when almost everyone else turned their back on it.

We rarely see in this country, with the exception of war, such a united front from politicians and the public alike; and even conflict is no guarantee of a united front as we have recently witnessed.

But Murdoch will not go quietly, however the difference is the sheer magnitude of opposition and the fact it is coming from all angles that will have both him and his team reeling.

Today The Sun carries the headline 'Brown Wrong' and counters Gordon Brown's accusations with their side of the story.

News International has bought back $5bn of its own shares to try and underpin the value; the share price has dropped 14% since the 4th of July.

And with the possibility that both Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks may appear in front of MP's at the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, we could be set for the most fascinating reality television show in years.

However the bad news keeps on piling and today Murdoch Sr will undoubtedly shudder at the news that US senator Jay Rockefeller has called for an investigation into whether reported hacking by News Corporation targeted any US citizens and has warned of "serious consequences" should that be found to be the case.

Even in his own country Murdoch is not safe as the Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch's media empire announced it is to investigate all payments made to contributors since 2008, as the fallout from the UK phone-hacking scandal continues to widen.

Parliament, which seems to have been given a new lease of life and relevance, now lines up as one voice in its attempts to rid the country of Murdoch's methods. MP's know they have been given a golden opportunity to gain back some of the credibility they destroyed during the expenses scandal and are seizing the chance to be seen as next in line to knock Murdoch.

But with Cameron claiming that the reforms and the public enquiries that will come into play over the next few months how much will the results of these impact on the day to day running of Parliament?

In the case of the expenses scandal it was simple; don't break the rules and stop claiming expenses you are not entitled too.

In the case of the phone hacking scandal not quite so clear.

Friendships have built up over years between MP's and the media, to expect these to cease and to expect MP's to live in a bubble insulated from the influence of media is impractical. To draw a line across which MP's cannot cross will be impossible to manage and perversely could result in Parliament becoming isolated from the real world and unable to communicate effectively with the public it is there to serve.

Cameron himself has fallen foul of friendships and loyalty already and this scandal is still only in its second week; although the Coulson question has been lingering for a lot longer.

Big business has been close to various MP's for years, with lobbying companies trying to influence decisions and certain board appointments seemingly based on an endless conveyor belt of accessibility to the very people we entrust to serve our interests; how can this be reigned in?

And who exactly is going to monitor how MP's interact with the media and what amount of influence is deemed too much?

Perhaps pre-judging what may or may not happen in the next few months is futile as the sheer pace and remit of these enquiries and the criminal investigations seem to change almost daily.

With over 3800 hacking cases yet to be investigated there are sure to be plenty of revelations still to be unearthed and many more shocking disclosures along the way.

We are in an age when 140 characters and a carefully crafted hashtag campaign can, in an instant, undermine a super injunction or falsely accuse someone of a crime they did not commit, such is the pace of today's world of media. And anything that is even slightly less than truth in this case will be surely be seized upon by Murdoch's legal team; one that includes Lord Macdonald QC who was DPP during the last hacking investigation in 2005-2006.

I think the history books will look back on this event and show what is possible if the collective will of the people is channeled in such a way that politicians of all parties cannot fail but to follow; after all we put them there in the first place to represent our interests, not theirs.

It should also show that journalism is a vital part of democracy and that people such as Nick Davies, and indeed the Guardian newspaper who support was key to the story maintaining relevance, should be held up as examples of how important they are in the defending our way of life and ensuring that there is always someone who is willing to take risks in exposing the truth.

And the result is in: Murdoch has withdrawn his bid for BskyB.

You can follow me on Twitter @mcollinsblog

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

News International: An Empire in Ruins?

They say a week in politics is a long time; perhaps that saying can now be changed to encompass the last week endured by News International, for it is undoubtedly running scared.

With each new day comes a new revelation, and like a particularly contagious virus, it is starting to spread across different areas of the corporation. And as it spreads deeper the aura of invincibility that once seemed to cover every corner of the empire is crumbling away, leaving behind the last bastions of resistance; Murdoch Sr, Murdoch Jr and Brooks.

Yesterday saw the beginnings of the accusations Gordon Brown levelled at the group, and today saw the culmination in those accusations leading to the front doors of both the Sun and Sunday Times. Citing that the group had links to the criminal underworld and gained access to his personal bank account and legal files is just another of what is becoming a procession of MP's coming out of the woodwork, free from the shackles of tabloid revenge and confident that they can speak without retribution against what was once a menace that hovered above Parliament like a hawk keeping watch on its prey.

Yet we still get replies such as this from a spokesman for News International: "We note the allegations made concerning the reporting of matters relating to Gordon Brown. So that we can investigate these matters further, we ask that all information concerning these allegations is provided to us."

Why are we standing by and giving NI employees the time to investigate and possibly cleanse the place of any incriminating evidence BEFORE the police step in? We've already read reports claiming that millions of internal e-mails and messages were deleted off machines at the offices of the NOTW so why not start to get tough and let the police get involved sooner?

Today also sees the turn of acting deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan police John Yates, who's previous enquiry and conclusion into the phone hacking allegedly took just three hours, to face the Home Affairs Committee; that should be an interesting session.

This is a man who has united all parties in their condemnation of his conduct....

Lord Prescott said Yates should stand down.

In less than a day, in three hours he said [Yates] had reviewed it and there was no evidence whatsoever. There is no evidence whatsoever that was just a big lie. They made judgements about not pursuing criminal actions that had been conducted, that is in fact is enough to have seen them moved out of their jobs.

Yates is still there, when all this evidence is coming out by Commissioner Akers, it is totally unacceptable that he stays in that job. Can't he find gardening leave which they usually find in these situations until we have cleared all this up with a public inquiry.

Conservative MP George Eustice said Yates had some serious questions to answer.

Why with all these 11,000 pages of evidence, knowing as they did that it was quite widespread why they didn't do a more thorough investigation at the time ... [Yates] investigated the cash for peerages allegations thoroughly and without fear or favour. I think it does look like there has been a different approach on this particular instance.

The reach and pace with which this whole affair is moving is breathtaking, leaving almost everyone in its tracks as it progresses onwards without the barriers that would once try to hold it back.

And more bad news for's spreading to the US.

I think Jon Stewart's take on what is happening in this country perhaps best sums up how the Murdoch empire is crumbling into parody...

With the strong links NI has into the Republican party bound to be examined, class actions being taken by US shareholders who are disgruntled with the slide in value of their stock and Melanie Sloan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington commenting 'if Mr Murdoch's employees can be so brazen as to target the British prime minister, then it is not unreasonable to believe they also might hack into the voicemails of American politicians and citizens' the very future of Murdoch's empire could be called into question.

And yet amongst all this we now see that the domain name has been transferred into the ownership of News International.

Do they really think people are going to have the desire and appetite to engage in another Murdoch backed travesty of a Sunday paper given all that is happening at the moment?

But against the backdrop of the utter carnage that is taking place in the media and despite universal condemnation, including calls from the parents of Milly Dowler for her to 'do the honourable thing' and quit, Rebekah Brooks is still the Chief Executive of News International.

You can follow me on Twitter @mcollinsblog

Friday, July 8, 2011

What price Rebekah Brooks?

When I wrote yesterday about whether the NOTW could survive or whether it may close given the public outcry over the phone hacking scandal as the extent to which this had spread into the lives of us all became apparent I was accused of being over-dramatic and also hamming the situation up and that inevitably it would all blow over....

In almost any other circumstance or situation it would have blown over and the headline writers would focus on the next scandal; but this is a News International scandal and if past performances were a guide to future outcomes it was never going to play by the rule book.

But this was no ordinary company closure and to cap it all and to end the most bizarre of days, the one and only Rebekah Brooks, to many one of the key players in the scandal, was the person charged with standing up in front of the staff and making the announcement that this Sunday's NOTW would be the last.

I think many of us would struggle to write a script with such imagination.

Whilst we can all focus on the corporate machinations surrounding the decision, the situation with the BSkyB bid and how much wrong has been done in the past by the paper, in the here and now 200 NOTW employees have lost their jobs as a result of the perceived failure of the board to handle certain key players in the whole sorry scandal.

And then there is the commercial motive behind the decision; advertisers were clambering for the exit as the brand value of the NOTW sank through the floor and any subsequent association with it quickly became a poisoned chalice.

What must sadden people who are or have been associated with the paper though must be both the pace of its demise and that many of the good things the paper has achieved over the years will be lost as it becomes consigned to the history books.

When the newspaper 'Today', Britain's first colour newspaper and also part of the News International group, ceased production in 1995 it went with a whimper and in truth many people didn't even notice, such was its lack of influence and impact on the world of news at the time.

But this is different, love it or hate it, the NOTW did have an impact on British news and culture.

Its many campaigns, such as the one supporting Sarah's Law, were responsible for helping shape the law in this country and protect parents with young children by giving them access to the sex offenders register.

Although not without controversy, the Fake Sheikh, the undercover reporter whose exploits are said to have brought over 250 criminals to justice as well as exposing the odd England football manager along the way, are further examples of some of the good the paper did.

But all of this will be washed away as the headline writers will focus only on the key movers and shakers in the scandal, some if which seem determined to back each other to hilt.

Watching the statement made by James Murdoch defending Rebekah Brooks will I'm sure, make people wonder what exactly she has to do that will be considered morally and ethically wrong in the eyes of the company.

Many questions remain unanswered and just how deep the public enquiry will go to find answers is going to be interesting as many stakeholders in this scandal are yet to be named, exposed and shoved into the media spotlight.

Some comment that this is a victory for the British public however I think this is incorrect; the NOTW was the most read of all the Sunday papers and continued to entertain and brighten up many peoples Sundays right up to the very end.

The controversies were always there ,as were the court cases and the salacious scandals that would rock the celebrity or political world to its core for a few days; and then it was business as usual and people moved on.

But the depth to which the main players in the phone hacking scandal sank significantly up the stakes and it is apparent that the British public cannot move on from this; understandably so.

At this moment in time the only winner appears to be Rebekah Brooks because, at least on the surface, she has managed to preside over the closure of 168 years of newspaper history and deprive 200 people of a job; that is quite some sacrificial lamb and whether it was worth it only time will tell.

As for the future of the NOTW, well I believe there will be a time when new owners and a new attitude can prevail and hopefully it can return to the stands in the not too distant future.

However if NI think the Sun on Sunday or whatever else they plan to replace it with will work I would suggest they think again as guilt by association is difficult to shake and anything with an NI stamp of ownership on it is going to become something of a pariah as this scandal rolls on.

You can follow me on Twitter @mcollinsblog