Dan Green captures Cardiff

Last week Daniel Meadows, photographer and creator of Capture Wales, came to talk about his photographic career. I met local photographer Dan Green yesterday, whose work centres on capturing the city of Cardiff. Dan has staged two exhibitions, BigLittleCity and Cardiff Characters, which focus on the local characters who make up the city. Here’s what he had to say:

Dan Green, 33, photographer, Cardiff

Dan green exhibition

Dan's first exhibition at Cardiff Library

I came up with the idea for Cardiff Characters with a friend. We thought it would be great to document and photograph these people who make up everyday life in Cardiff. They are basically the landscape of the city.

My very first photograph was of ‘Toy Mic Trev’. He used to be on Queen Street singing into a toy microphone. It was done with a lot of admiration. Continue reading

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Jedward survive another week

The twins have caused more controversy this week

So Jedward have ousted Lucie in a shock X Factor result.  Simon’s decision to rely on the public vote has provoked widespread outrage.  And as much as I love Ireland’s dynamic duo, I was surprised and disappointed to see a contender like Lucie go.  But let’s not be too hard on the boys.

Yes, many people find them annoying.  Their singing talents are at best mediocre.  And to the untrained eye, their performances may resemble a bad pantomime act.

But let’s consider how many gifted artists have been unappreciated in their own time.  Van Gogh.  Bach.  Wilde.  Maybe one day people will look back and marvel at how the twins’ genius went unnoticed.  There’s a lot of potential behind that mass of generously backcombed hair.

The “Jedward experience” is unlike anything we’ve seen before and, in many ways, ahead of its time.  Who could ever have imagined that a Ghostbusters dance routine would become such an integral part of the X Factor?  Say what you like about them, they’re certainly different.

And what they lack in conventional ability, they make up for with enthusiasm.  That requires one hell of a lot of enthusiasm.  Every week they come out and desperately try to win over the audience.  They wear humiliating costumes.  They do backflips.  They attempt Irish rap.  What more could an audience ask for?

"If there's something strange in the neighbourhood": the 3am girls have started a nation-wide craze for Jedward masks

"If there's something strange in your neighbourhood": the 3am girls have started a nationwide craze for Jedward masks

So, as unpopular as it may seem, I’ll be backing the twins to the bitter end.  And it seems that I’m not the only one.  Little by little, people are seeing the light that is Jedward.  As Louis puts it, they “have something”.  Whether it’s a good or bad thing I’m not sure, but they definitely have something.  And that’s a great place to start.

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Specialist blogs

Adam Tinworth, creator of One Man and His Blog, explained how to attract viewers in the highly competitive world of blogging.  In many ways, a good blog post is similar to good article:  they need to be interesting, varied and well-researched.  However, there is one main difference.  Bloggers need to be specialists.

As journalists, we often have to write about a new subject at a moment’s notice.  Whether it’s a political article, a theatre review or a TV listing, we have to be prepared for all possiblities.  But this approach doesn’t necessarily work as well on a blog.

In a seemingly endless world of blogs, the writer must have the knowledge to draw the reader in.  They must do all they can to stand out in such a crowded market.  So does this mean the journalist ‘jack-of-all-trades’ era is over?  Will all journalists have to find their own niche to specialise in?

It appears that journalists are now becoming defined more by their niche knowledge than the publication they work for.  A magazine now could publish videos, create blogs, write news articles and features.  Although the definition of a magazine has become broader, specialist knowledge is required to make it work.  We are branching out in terms of media, but perhaps our subject focus is becoming narrower.  A blog by someone who doesn’t know much about their subject is common.  A blog by someone who is respected in their field, however, differentiates itself from the others and attracts followers.

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Strictly Arlene withdrawal

Arlene Phillips

Do we miss Strictly's queen of mean?

Strictly Come Dancing has been far from quiet this series.  Not only has Anton caused a race rowAli Bastian has fallen for her dance partner and Jo Wood’s been branded a bush kangaroo.  But despite all the controversy, there’s still only one question on everyone’s lips:  should Alesha Dixon have replaced Arlene Phillips on the panel?

I’ve never been a huge Arlene fan.  I know she has a wealth of technical experience and has taught choreography for years.  But most of her comments on the show seemed to be either unintelligible sound bites or unwanted overtures to the male contestants.  I’ll never forget the mixture of embarrassment and pain on Mark Ramprakash’s face as she raved about his “snake hips”.  Or the forced smiles of the other male celebrities who had to fight off the female equivalent of Len Goodman, who seems to enjoy the skimpy Strictly costumes far too much.  Saying all that though, I do miss Arlene.

Yes, she could be irritating, cutting and sometimes bizarre.  But she was like an annoying relative.  You can’t wait to get rid of them when they’re with you, yet for some inexplicable reason you miss them when they’re gone.  Although Alesha’s nice enough, she just doesn’t come out with meaningless metaphors the way Arlene used to.  In a quest to find out if I was the only one suffering from Arlene withdrawal, I asked a few people on the street:

Do you think Alesha Dixon has made a good replacement for Arlene Philips on Strictly Come Dancing?

Ann Goodman, 54, lecturer, Cardiff

“No, Arlene Phillips has a lot experience with choreography and I think she’s the expert on that.”

Kieran Hart, 25, traffic warden, Cardiff

“To be honest, no, just because she doesn’t have Arlene’s experience.”

Vicky Bailey, 31, receptionist, Bristol

“Yes, I can’t stand Arlene Phillips so I think Alesha’s an improvement.  At least she doesn’t sexually harass the male contestants!”

Jack Howell, 51, construction worker, Bristol

“No, I think she’s a nice girl but she doesn’t say anything that we wouldn’t say at home.”

Sue Kendrick, 45, housewife, Bath

“Not really, it’s a shame because she was great before on the show, but I just don’t think it’s worked the same way as it

Rhian Jones, 19, shop assistant, Bristol

“Yeah, I think it’s good to change things once in a while.  You get bored with the same old judges all the time, don’t you?”

Caroline Wain, 47, housewife, Gloucestershire

“Personally I don’t.  I don’t dislike her but I don’t think she’s got enough insight into dancing.”

So it looks as though I’m not the only one missing Arlene’s bizarre charm.  Rumour has it that she may rejoin the series after being asked back for the Strictly Come Dancing live tour.  Perhaps Arlene will be making a comeback in the near future?  Watch this space.

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Trafigura is a smug victory for Twitter

The Trafigura case has been a hot topic this week.  Ironically, the heavy-handed injunction has generated far more bad press for the company than anyone could ever have imagined.  It’s been hailed by many as a triumph for freedom of speech and the power of websites such as Twitter.  And yes, I suppose it has partially convinced me that Twitter is more than a means of broadcasting the contents of your breakfast to the world.  But somehow I’m worried this may make Twitter users even more irritating than they were before.

Even the most loyal of Tweeters will admit there are many users who are just plain annoying.  You know who I’m talking about.  The people who feel the need to publish the most inane details of their life, which has now become just a way of passing time in between Tweets.  And when there’s nothing to fill that gap, they’ll Tweet about Tweeting.  Take Lily Allen for example.  She’s publicly admitted her boyfriend is angry over how much time she spends updating her Twitter account.  Now the Trafigura case has exploded, Twitter addicts like Lily have been given justification for needing their fix every ten minutes.  If you criticise them, they can just smugly reply that without people like them, Trafigura might never have become breaking news.  And annoyingly, we’ll have to admit they’ve got a point.

Seriously, though, I do wonder how Trafigura thought they could keep this under wraps in a world where information spreads so quickly.  I was amazed when I read the history of the case on The Guardian website.

In February 2007 Trafigura paid the government £100 million to clear up the waste on the Ivory Coast following widespread reports of sickness.  However, they denied responsibility.  In May 2008, they threatened Newsnight with legal action for broadcasting a revealing report on the fiasco.  They still denied responsiblity.  In September, The Guardian found evidence suggesting Trafigura knew the dangers of their waste disposal methods.  The company granted compensation to claimants within the same week, but guess what?  They still didn’t accept responsibility.

After all this, they decided that it would be a good idea to impose a super-injunction on the issue and to deny press the right to report on a question raised in parliament.  For a company which professes on its website to “constantly strive to reduce the nature and level of all the risks we face“, it seems a little short-sighted not to see the risk in this plan.  It was clear that information was leaking from all corners.  The strategy of denying all knowledge, while granting compensation and threatening any press with legal action, was obviously not working.

If I ever own a multinational oil corporation with dubious waste disposal methods, I’d like to think I’d do a better job.

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Oops! John and Edward have done it again

When I heard X Factor’s John and Edward would be performing Oops!  I did it again, I mentally prepared myself for one of the most disturbing performances of all time.  Things didn’t get any better when they emerged wearing tight, red PVC jackets.  But I think it turned out to be the most entertaining performance of the night.

Yes, the other contestants can sing and dance well, but John and Edward have a unique selling point:  they can’t do either of those things.  As irritating as it was when they believed they were the next Backstreet Boys, they’ve now become weirdly entertaining.

And I’m not the only one who’s fallen for their “unique” brand of entertainment.  Last week they managed to avoid the bottom two despite a truly hideous performance of Rock DJ.  As unlikely as it seemed at the beginning, it seems that they are gathering a following as a novelty act.  Even Simon is warming to them.  Looking unusually happy, he told the boys on Saturday that their performance reminded him of The Exorcist.  Perhaps not the ideal compliment for an act to receive, but he has a point.  Parts of the Britney Spears rendition were truly terrifying, yet for some reason I wanted to watch it again.

Don’t ask me what’s so entertaining about the deluded duo.  Yes, the out-of-time dance routines provide endless comedy moments.  And the out-of-tune singing is equally funny.  But couldn’t we see something similarly hopeless at a local school play?  No, John and Edward have something else which makes us support them against all our better judgement.  The X Factor, perhaps?  If so, we may have to prepare ourselves for the most unlikely winners to date.

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Danni’s X Factor Blunder

The X factor is no stranger to controversy.  Over the years we’ve watched Sharon storm off, Danni dish the dirt and Simon sort the can-bes from the wanna-bes.   But it seemed that no-one was prepared for Danni Minogue’s jibe at contestant Danyl this Saturday.

After singing the traditionally female song “I’m telling you”, Danyl was heavily criticised by the judges for being over-confident.  However, Danni took the criticism a step further with a controversial remark about his sexuality.  The audience were unusually silent as the judge told Danyl:  “If we’re to believe what we read in the papers, there was no need to switch the gender reference in that song”.   The complaints flooded in as Danyl left the stage teary-eyed, prompting calls from some viewers for Danni to leave the show.  So on a programme where contestants are regularly reduced to tears, why has this caused such controversy?

Perhaps the main issue is that the comment wasn’t relevant to his performance.  Simon has made some pretty personal remarks in the past, but they’ve mainly been points which could affect the contestant’s chances.  When he called John and Edward obnoxious, the audience was mainly behind him.  Not only because the fake American accents, metre-high hair and blazer get-up had provoked the same feeling of nausea in all of us, but because their image could cost them votes.  Danyl’s sexuality, however, shouldn’t affect votes or performance.  This is maybe why Danni came across as being excessively personal and unfair.  In fact, Danyl later revealed that the comment was an in-joke between him and the judge and was not intended maliciously.

That’s not to say the comments between the judges are quite so innocuous.  Louis and Simon regularly exchange personal jibes regarding each other’s sexuality, style and taste in music and yet no-one bats an eyelid.  Perhaps because the judges are better-positioned than the contestants to defend themselves.  Or perhaps because anyone who wears high-waisted trousers, whitens their teeth and says their most treasured possession is a mirror deserves whatever is thrown at them.  Although if there is any truth to the insults, I think Louis and Simon would make a lovely couple.  Where else could you find two middle-aged men who openly admit to liking Westlife?

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