Colombia and XO laptops

30 05 2008

Salutations, y’all!

I decided it was high time I wrote another BBC technology news post…

According to the BBC (been a while since I wrote that phrase), Caldas, Colombia, has signed up to the One Laptop Per Child programme.  This means about 65,000 Caldas children will be receiving XO laptops.

Governor Mario Aristizabal said that the region is “committed to giving each and every child of primary school age the same opportunity to access knowledge as the most privileged children in New York, Berlin or Tokyo.”

Another, separate deal is being negotiated to provide laptops to schools in and around Manizales.

The BBC notes that OLPC have failed to meet their objectives of producing laptops costing $100 dollars each sold in millions.  This is true, since each laptop costs $188 and only 60,000 have been sold.

On the other hand, I think that sounds pretty respectable, nevertheless.

Current listening: Public Enemy, “Rebel Without a Pause”.



26 05 2008

Yo!  Wassup?  Bobby G-Force is back with more media studies facts.  If you’re studying press regulation in the UK, the PCC is one of those basic concepts you need to know about.

The Press Complaints Commission is the main regulatory body for printed media in the UK.  The PCC have a Code of Practice which newspapers and magazines are supposed to keep to.  If they don’t, then they are vulnerable to complaints, which may be put to the PCC by members of the public.

The Code of Practice covers 16 areas:

1. Accuracy
2. Opportunity to reply
3. Privacy*
4. Harassment*
5. Intrusion into grief or shock
6. Children*
7. Children in sex cases*
8. Hospitals*
9. Reporting of crime*
10. Clandestine devices and subterfuge*
11. Victims of sexual assault
12. Discrimination
13. Financial journalism
14. Confidential sources
15. Witness payments in criminal trials
16. Payment to criminals*

These are not laws, but guidelines all UK newspapers and magazines are expected to abide by.  This is essentially a self-regulating system, since no paper wants to cough up compensation money, so by keeping to the Code of Practice, they are covering their bases.  Thus it is fast and, apparently, efficient.

However, they can ignore guidelines marked with an asterisk if they can demonstrate that they acted in the public interest.  For this reason, some have accused the system of being overly lenient and ineffectual, a claim the PCC are quick to argue against.

So that’s your basic PCC overview.  Booyah!

Current listening: The Prodigy, “Firestarter”.

Bye bye, comprehensive

24 05 2008

So ends my last week attending a comprehensive school.  I have been attending one comprehensive or another since I was four, so it feels kind of weird to think that I won’t be going back to one.

It was probably a little over optimistic to expect me to have a media studies related post up this week, since I haven’t been blogging or reading blogs all week.  However, I am planning to write about the PCC soon, so that’s something to look forward to.

In unrelated news, once my exams are over I’ll be done with media for good.  I do have plans for what to do with the blog, though.

In even less related news, Doctor Who will not be shown this Saturday.  Instead we get the Eurovision Song Contest.  I don’t know that I’ll bother to watch, since the musicians are never particularly impressive, and all the votes are political or geographical anyway.  Why we can’t just watch Doctor Who instead is beyond me; it’s a much more entertaining programme.

Study Leave

16 05 2008

Another introspective post.  I’m afraid these are getting more common of late; I hope I don’t make a habit of it.  People will start to think I have feelings.

Today, Year 13 broke up for study leave.  This means we will spend the next few weeks out of Sixth Form, revising for exams.  The problem is, I don’t yet know enough about the History of France 1601-1715 to start revising, so I’m going to spend the next few weeks making notes from textbooks, trying to learn as much as I can.  Only once I know what the Edict of Nantes was, or why Louis XIV disliked Jansenists so much, can I begin my actual revision.

Today was grey-skied and windy (I’m blogging about the weather again, but bear with me).  Somebody had dumped several picnic benches, some road signs and a small marquee on the roof of the Sixth Form block.

We spent the day doing very little, although I did attend a history lesson, during which I probably learned more than I have done in an entire year’s worth of history lessons.  All in all, though, it’s been a bit of an odd day, and afterwards I can’t help feeling a little sad, in spite of my best efforts to become a “manly man” (manly men don’t succumb to wimpy emotions such as sadness).  After all, I don’t know how many of my classmates I’m going to see ever again.  Admittedly, we will be returning for exams and results day, but that doesn’t mean I’ll meet up with all of them again.

The really weird thing is that, if all goes to plan, I’ll be coming back next year, while most of my friends head off to Uni.  So although it feels like Sixth Form is over, I’ll actually be having another whole year, during which I’ll be surrounded by unfamiliar Year 12s.  Two of my friends will be returning; ironically, both of them were in my history class this year, but next year they won’t be, so I’ll only see them during study periods.

Of course, unlike most of my friends, I’m not even on study leave yet, since I study media at a different school which won’t be breaking up for another week.  Which reminds me, I have an essay on genre to complete by Monday.

I apologise for the above splurge of emotions; I just had to get that out of my system.  Media studies relevant posts will return soon.  I hope promise think.

Multiple genres

14 05 2008

I’ve never been a fan of genre categorisation myself.  Ostensibly it helps you to find the sort of stories that interest you when you’re browsing a library or book/video store, but often the labels are too narrow, and stories are only ever given either one genre (e.g. steampunk, fantasy, thriller) or two (e.g. science fantasy, romantic comedy, action adventure).

I have this theory about genre – namely, there is no such thing as a story that has only one genre.  Every story will combine elements of other genres.  Take Star Wars – it’s not just a science fiction.  It’s got elements of fantasy (I actually think of it more as a fantasy than a science fiction) and action adventure, and even Western.  Or Harry Potter – they’re not just fantasy stories, they’re also school stories and contain mystery elements as well.

If you think about it, a lot of the categories we call “genres” are completely unrelated to one another.  For example, the presence of futuristic technology doesn’t preclude the story from featuring action, or comedy or romance.

So, because I have nothing better to be doing with my time, I have sorted various genres into more specific types:

1. Resemblance to real events

Stories are usually categorised by the simple premise, “did this happen in real life?”  If not, then it’s fiction.  If some of the characters really existed but the story is to a degree invented, it’s historical fiction.  If it’s all true, it’s non-fiction.  Pretty basic, but I thought it worth mentioning, especially since these are all-encompassing.

2. Possibility of actually occurring (at least in theory)

This is a common one, the main genres being fantasy (including subgenres such as supernatural horror) and science fiction (including subgenres such as cyberpunk).  Add to that stories which feature nothing that could not happen in real life, which is not normally considered a genre by itself, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be, since a lot of people prefer those stories.  Note that just being set in the future and on another planet doesn’t necessarily mean science fiction; it could just as easily be a fantasy.  One thing you’ll notice is that categorising by whether or not magic or super intelligent androids exist in a story tells you pretty much nothing about the actual plot, so stories in these genres pretty much have to belong to at least one other genre.  Still, SF and fantasy stories pretty much exist in a kind of geek ghetto anyway, so whether or not they are correctly labelled as action adventure stories or romantic comedies is probably the least of their worries.

3. Emotions provoked

Stories are also grouped by what emotional response they get from the audience.  For example, horrors provoke shock, thrillers provoke tension, comedies provoke amusement, and so-called “weepies” provoke, well, weeping.  I would also tentatively lump action in with this, since they provoke a “woah, that was awesome!” response.  I’ve noticed that these stories seem to get sneered at a lot by critics (there are a number of notable exceptions), because apparently over-reliance on depressing or scary scenes is a cheap way of entertaining the audience.  In any case, like fantasy stories, these stories must have other elements to them or else there isn’t a plot.

4. Setting

All stories are set in a specified time and place, be it Renaissance France, America in the early 21st century, or New New York City in the early 31st century.  Works set in parallel universes and alternate histories also come under this.  Some of these get their own genre names, others don’t; it’s always struck me as a little odd that Westerns count as a genre in themselves, for example, since they’re just a specific type of period setting.  In any case, these don’t have anything to do with plot, either.

5. Plot

Of course, stories can be categorised by plot, and in fact often are.  This can be adventure, or romance, or drama, or mystery, or any number of other variations.  These are still not all encompassing, since many stories are a mixture of multiple plotlines.  In any case, the cleverest stories are those that take a recognisable plot and then subvert it, turning it into something totally different.

6. Presentation

Stories are also commonly categorised by the format they are presented in: animated, play, telenovella, platform game, graphic novel, rock opera, webcomic, stream of consciousness… the list goes on.  Obviously this makes sense in the case of gameplay, since it does not necessarily follow that someone who enjoys FPSes will enjoy RPGs; on the other hand, it doesn’t really tell you anything about what the story involves.  I mean, why would someone dislike a story when it’s presented in the form of an anime OVA, but enjoy the exact same story when it’s a live action movie?  It’s still got all the same elements, it’s just drawn instead of acted.  Of course, these categories are helpful if you’re specifically watching a movie because you like the art style, or because it’s got Orlando Bloom in it, or because you like the songs.

My conclusion from this is that all stories must be in a bare minimum of six genres (one for each type), but that really is the bare minimum; most will incorporate more than one of those.  Take Doctor Who:

Type 1: fiction, sometimes historical

Type 2: science fiction (with occasional fantasy elements)

Type 3: pretty much all of them combined

Type 4: anywhere and everywhere, but especially the UK in the near future

Type 5: varies from episode to episode, but drama, mystery and adventure are common.

Type 6: live action TV show

I reckon that could be applied to just about every story ever.  Now I just need to persuade libraries and bookstores to use it…

Sunny Day – Hooray!

6 05 2008

So, as usual, I’ve been barely coping with schoolwork, struggling best I can.  Lately I’ve been spending WAY too much time online – I’m becoming addicted.  And the rest of the family are not happy, so that’s got to change now.  Still, I can still blog!

I’ve had another tiring day.  Last double lesson (periods 5 and 6) was media, and a grand total of four people attended.  That’s got to be a record, or something.  I’m pretty sure everyone was in, but only the four of us showed.  Luckily Adam was in a good mood – must be the weather.  We did a few practice questions, then watched some TV.  And if any of you skivers are reading this, you missed out on sweets and prawn crackers.  And Adam paid for them!

It’s really sunny, and the sky is blue and clear.  Walking home, I just couldn’t help noticing how much like summer it felt.  The birds were singing.  Cars glowed like magnesium flares as sunlight reflected off them.  And everybody just seemed so happy to be alive.  Even (someone who appeared to be) an emo kid and his girlfriend were smiling.  Once I’ve posted this, I’m going to get off this computer, go outside and enjoy the sunshine.  How can anyone feel miserable on such a glorious day as this?

Current listening: Radiohead, “Gagging Order”.

Bobby G. Faction: The Resistance!