Posts Tagged ‘giles coren’

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Charlie Brooker and Twitter etiquette lesson no. 432

October 13, 2011

Over the last few days, the writer/TV presenter/hair model Charlie Brooker has been tweeting about David Cameron. More specifically he’s been tweeting about David Cameron being a giant evil lizard who eats foals. It’s moderately amusing (I imagine that when Charlie Brooker wakes up in the morning, there’s a Guardian reader at the end of the bed telling him he’s not as funny as he used to be) but what has been interesting is the response from his followers. Because Charlie has been retweeting all the angry responses (removing the tweeter’s name to both protect them from abuse and to prevent trolls getting their 15 seconds in the limelight).

A lot of these tweets have been along the lines of  “You’re a boring twat. Change the record.” or “If you continue like this I will unfollow you.”

Now, my attitude to Twitter is that if someone is boring or pompous or just plain rubbish, I unfollow them. I don’t tweet them to tell them that they are shit. I don’t engage them in arguments about why they are boring/pompous/wrong because I have chosen to follow them. It was my decision. They are not obliged to entertain me. They haven’t lured me into following them under false pretences. I am not paying them to tweet me.

I find it interesting, because I think it reflects how we view our Twitter feeds. Many of us think of our twitter feeds as our own personal space. And when we follow someone, we feel that we are inviting them into our personal space, and that as guests there, they should behave or we can angrily throw them out. Now, my own personal space on Twitter is quite relaxed. I work from home most of the time. I don’t care if people I follow swear or post rude pictures. I only unfollow people if they really bore/annoy me. But on occasion I’ve had to take charge of corporate Twitter accounts. And it’s all about staying on-message, getting the tone of voice right and pretending I have a shiny metal exterior. And my head is therefore in a prudish, semi-outraged place. I’m like a teacher patrolling a school corridor during lunch hour. So when someone appears in that Twitter feed and is swearing, or expressing shit political opinions, or posting pictures of porn, I get angry and defensive. “HOW DARE THEY?!” I think. “HOW DARE THEY COME INTO MY SLEEK TWITTER WORLD AND POST THAT CRAP? BAN THIS SICK FILTH!”

Whereas in reality the person tweeting is actually in their own personal space, expressing their own opinions, and I am the voyeur peeking in.  Tweeters are not guests invited under sufferance into our space. They are masters of their own domains (this is a terrible phrase/metaphor. I’m tired).

But I also think that the reason Charlie Brooker has received so much abuse is that as a celebrity/journalist, there is the perception that he is here to entertain us on Twitter. That just as we pay our license fee to watch the BBC or pay to buy a newspaper and demand entertainment, so we should be able to follow Charlie or Caitlin Moran or Giles Coren on Twitter and sit back, popcorn in hand and await entertainment. But this isn’t the BBC or The Guardian, it’s Twitter. No-one (well, very few people) is getting paid to tweet. No one here is obliged to entertain you. You are not doing anyone a favour by following them.

I sometimes get the sense that some people view Twitter as civilians and celebrities. If you’re a civilian, you can tweet about picking up your kids from school, or what you had for lunch, or take the piss out of Ed Miliband. Whereas if you’re a celebrity, you’re obliged to entertain, to feed your followers a constant stream of wit and bon mots. Whereas surely the whole point of Twitter is that it can smash down that wall between celebrity and the public. You might work in a bank, or work in e-learning (like me) but you can still be funny (or try to be funny) and gain a respectable following. And you might be a top journalist and you can still tweet about David Cameron being a lizard or what you ate for dinner. If you follow a “civilian” (for example, a man who works in a bank and plays football on a Sunday with Steve and Justin) and he tweets annoying crap about David Cameron, you might unfollow him, but you wouldn’t tweet him to tell he’s a boring twat. Whereas with Charlie Brooker, well, he’s a public figure so as soon as he says something stupid you’re well within your rights to tweet him abuse, right? Because he’s obliged to entertain you.

I suppose my point is that on Twitter we are ALL public figures. We’re equals on Twitter in that unless our accounts are protected, we all theoretically have the same global reach. Everything we write on Twitter, whether we are Rihanna or a girl living above a KFC on Seven Sisters Road, is open to the same level of scrutiny.

Twitter has the power to reshape how we think of private/public figures. Occasionally I get tweets telling me that I am boring, or that my tweets are shit, or that I “ought to get a girlfriend” (I have a girlfriend). And normally I block those people. But once in a while I think: How about instead of blocking them, I follow them? And then, when they tweet about picking up their kids from work, or why they like David Cameron, or what they want for dinner, I can chime in with “That’s boring, mate.” or “You’re a twat. Unfollowed.” Because they are obliged to entertain me, right?

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Poppy Dinsey interview

June 3, 2011

I haven’t blogged in a while, but I thought I would revive my ill-conceived attempt to interview people from the Internet who I find interesting.

I started following Poppy Dinsey on Twitter a few years ago (drawn to her attractive avatar) and it turned out she was funny and interesting and made me temporarily interested in fashion. So we met up in London and ate burritos and it turned out she was just as lovely in real life.

Poppy runs a site called What I Wore Today, in which she takes a photo of herself every day and shows the world what she’s wearing.  

Armed with a hangover, I decided to interview Poppy on Skype chat. This meant a lot of typing and that odd overlapping thing where you’re both typing at the same time and nothing quite makes sense.  

Poppy Dinsey

Greg Stekelman: I’ve been following you on Twitter for a couple of years. How did the WIWT blog start? (that is a boring question, but necessary) 

Poppy Dinsey: It’s quite a nice story. I was sat on a beach (Newport or Huntington or Laguna, I should probably try and remember which one it was exactly so that I don’t tell the story differently every time I say it) and was thinking about New Year’s resolutions as it was a few days before NYE. And I just decided to see if I could photograph every outfit I wore every day for a year. 

There was also a side reason, a more sinister reason, but that’s the PR friendly version and 90% true. 

GS: Ok. We all have sinister reasons. Very few of us decide to splurge our lives all over the Internet simply to make the world a better place. 

PD:  It’s one of my most self-indulgent projects to date. 

GS: If I did what you do, I would run out of outfits after about a week. How do you manage to not wear the same clothes over and over? That is a terrible question. The answer is probably that you have loads more clothes than me. 

PD: By owning lots. I have wardrobes, drawers, external rails, suitcases… There are cases in my bedroom, office and bathroom. I also wear a lot of the same stuff repeatedly, but ‘in different ways’. 

GS: Yes. I do that as well. Sometimes I put my shoes on my head. 

PD: Do you ever wear high heels? 

GS: No. I quite like the idea of spending a few days dressed as a woman, but I have a beard and I find that beards and high heels don’t really mix. 

PD: I have always wanted a beard. And a penis, if I’m honest. 

GS: There’s still time. Technology is moving at an alarming rate. 

PD: Yes, I am wondering if I will choose the sex of my baby. And make it blue eyed and brown haired…

GS: Right. I was thinking about how exposed you are on your site. I post occasional photos of myself on Twitter but ultimately I quite like hiding behind anonymity. How does it feel having so many photos of yourself on the net? 

PD: I hate it in some respects. 

It can feel hugely unbalanced, people know a lot about me (or think they know a lot about me) and that’s not true the other way around. It can be weird when people tweet that they just saw me somewhere and I have no idea who they are, but they can recognise me because I constantly bombard them with pictures of myself. So I was asking for it really. I’ve ended up on a porn site (although I haven’t appeared on porn star facts). And I have some weird stalker people. It scares my Mother. 

GS: Oh dear. That’s quite unpleasant. I know what you mean about being spotted in public. I’ve had that, and in theory it should be flattering but in reality it’s quite alarming. It’s also odd because it’s like being famous without having any of the advantages of fame and fortune. I’m still mostly unemployed and skint. 

And I sometimes feel like without thinking I put a lot of myself on the Internet and then wonder if there’s anything left for my private life. 

PD: Yes it’s a bit weird. But generally people are awesome, I’ve been moved to tears by lovely emails from some people. (Cue sob story music) 

GS: I generally don’t get lovely emails from people, but I suspect I project a less approachable image than you do. 

PD: Well I like that people have decided I’m a bit short tempered (my FAQ/general rants imply that) and now start emails with huge apologies about being sorry to bother me. It’s quite nice. 

GS: Yes. Your FAQ is excellent. More people should write similarly comprehensive guides. Back to the questions. High fashion tends to be all about size zero women. You’re not size zero and you don’t look like you want to be, which pleases me. I hate the idea of women feeling constantly pressured into being stick thin. 

I realise that’s a statement, not a question. 

PD: I don’t know, I’m beginning to get a bit paranoid about that for the first time ever. I’m nowhere bloody near size zero and at certain fashion things I feel really self-conscious. I know fashion quite well, but that doesn’t mean I can always wear it well. I could style someone else to look amazing, but my options are more limited. 

I am spending more and more time wanting plastic surgery and wanting to stop eating though. I was never like that before.

GS: That’s my fear. Almost every single woman I know has some kind of fairly serious body image issues. Whereas as a man there are loads of things about my body I dislike, but I’m fairly accepting of it. 

PD: I’m extremely self-conscious about the fact I have braces. To the point where I decided before they were put on that I wouldn’t date anyone for the next two years. 

GS: I think women think about their bodies in the same way that men think about their cocks. In that a woman wants to be thin even if her bloke likes someone curvy, because it’s important for her to show other women that she’s thin. And men want to have big cocks, even if their girlfriend hates big cocks, because they want to show other men they have big cocks. 

That last statement reads like a load of sexual gibberish. 

PD: But it’s true. 

GS: I think it must be quite difficult for a woman operating in the fashion world and maintaining some semblance of mental health. 

PD: You can get disillusioned, when you’re around models a lot you can feel like shit. Then you can go to Sainsbury’s and realise most people are normal. And normal is fine. Most people aren’t that hot. Most fashion people aren’t ‘hot’ anyway, they’re beautiful. Classy. Untouchable. Scary. 

GS: Do you feel like you’re a role model for teenage girls who are into fashion? 

PD: I wouldn’t say I feel like a role model but I get more of a kick from emails/tweets from younger girls. That sounds fucking dodgy. 

GS: No. It sounds sweet. If it was me getting emails from young girls it would sound dodgy. 

PD: If I could speak at a school every week then I would. My cousins are my favourite girls in the world to hang out with and they are 13/14. Shopping with them is still exciting and fun. 

GS: Are you more interested in catwalk fashion or high-street fashion? Or both? 

PD: Nothing compares to the fun of watching live catwalks, I absolutely love it. It gets me very excited. But I can’t afford high end (generally), so high street fashion is where it’s at for me realistically. 

It’s always interesting to see which trends actually make it off the catwalk, because we’ll watch the shows and make assumptions but not every trend gets picked up

GS: I used to be quite interested in fashion. Not catwalk stuff. Just clothes because I was a teenage indie kid, and every musical genre had its own tribal uniform. Indie kids/rudeboys/goths/metallers/grebos etc. That seems to be disappearing. Everyone shops at Top Shop.

You can see someone in tight trousers, a leather jacket and a Stooges t-shirt and they’re actually a JLS fan, but Top Shop/Primark sells these looks to everyone. 

PD: Has it changed? Or are we older? I’m not sure. But part of me really hates how strong the trends are on the high street now. You can’t get simple clothes. 

And I don’t like people who purposely dress dishevelled when they’re rich. That probably sounds awful, but this faux-punk idea of privileged kids makes me gag. People that make an extra effort to look shit, ya know? 

GS: It feels like the high street incorporates underground fashion so quickly now that within a month of some weird trend, Primark are selling a copy for a tenner and everyone is wearing it. 

PD: Yep, definitely. It’s very, very fast. 

GS: But as you say, it’s also about getting older. I’d like to dress cooler, but that would probably involve me having the figure of a skinny 21-year old. And that isn’t me. 

PD: I have no idea why men wear skinny jeans. It makes me feel ill. 

GS: I think it’s so that people can admire the shape of their mobile phones in the jean pockets. 

GS: How many proposals/sexual overtures do you get per week? 

PD: Many a day. Some are becoming police matters. 

GS: Your FAQ mentions people offering to pay you for sex. Does that really happen? 

PD: It comes back to what we were talking about earlier though, if someone emails me asking to take me out why would I *EVER* say yes? They know so much about me (supposedly) and I know nothing about them. 

And yes, I get emails from married men and men offering to pay. Again, why someone would email from their work email address with their real name is beyond me. I could phone their boss. Or their wife. 

GS: Wow. That’s weird. Also, I’ve been on the Internet for about 15 years and no-one has EVER offered to pay me for sex. 

PD: How much would you charge? 

GS: That depends what people would want. I would offer a sliding scale, to take into account people on lower incomes who might want to sleep with me. 

I worry enough about what to charge people for my books, let alone for sex. 

PD: I’d worry someone might ask for their money back. 

GS: So, tell me about your obsession with Dustin Hoffman. 

PD: It’s pretty bad. I don’t watch Dustin movies because it upsets me too much. I haven’t seen most of them. It started with Straw Dogs, which is one of my all time favourite films.

GS: As a short Jewish man, your obsession with Dustin Hoffman comforts me greatly. 

PD: Do you like his voice? 

GS: I find it a bit nasal. To be honest, I haven’t thought about his voice very much. I like him. I love The Graduate and Tootsie but he’s been in so many rubbish films recently that some of the shine wears off. 

He’s an odd actor for you to obsess over though. In the sense that he’s not a conventionally handsome man. 

PD: I recently dated someone who was conventionally handsome, it was strange. I like older men generally, 40 plus. Although I am trying to be a bit more sensible about that… 

GS: You’re now going to be inundated by offers from older men. 

PD: …As older men generally come with a bit more hassle 

GS: Yes. Incontinence and prostate problems. 

PD: Well that’s another problem isn’t it? When I’m 50 they’ll be 70. But 70 years olds can be fun. (I haven’t slept with one) 

GS: When I meet someone who is flawless and conventionally beautiful, I struggle to envisage myself going out with them. I assume they are in a different league to me. I like beautiful people but they have to have a flaw, like a glass eye or a terrible skin condition, for me to consider going out with them. 

I think it’s interesting how we can have a veneer of confidence but underneath it’s just a mass of flawed assumptions. 

PD: My main pre-requisite is the ability to work hard and to not be bamboozled by menus in restaurants. 

GS: That rules me out. I do not work hard. My brain never stops working, but that rarely translates into physical activity. When I complete an 8 hour day in an office I genuinely believe I deserve a medal. 

PD: I have dated people who work less than me and it doesn’t work. 

GS: Before being a fashion blogger, you worked in tech. How was that? 

PD: It was amazing. And I still consider myself to work in tech really. I’m working on a new site and an iPhone app, things that I wouldn’t be confident to do if my background wasn’t in tech. 

I like working in start-ups and like working with developers, there’s a lot less fucking around. You just do stuff. 

Well you do piss around but it’s not like being with artsy types. 

GS: Careful. I may be an artsy type. 

PD: I like artsy types, but I wouldn’t go into business with them.

GS: My experience with tech people was that they were full of energy and ideas but were often sociopaths. 

PD: Yes but that can be quite nice, just getting on with things in silence. A lot of that is a stereotype, but if we’re going to go down the stereotype route then I prefer working with cold/direct/socially awkward people to OTT/fake/loud people. 

GS: Yes. I like a bit of both. To be honest, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to work with other people. Most of my work is done from a small room, with only woodlice and memories for company. 

PD: I keep my blinds down because I don’t want to be reminded of the outside world. 

GS: I find the sunshine outside my window a constant torment. 

PD: People who think you and I tweet a lot forget how much we are just “in a room”, to quote yourself. 

GS: Yes, indeed. 

PD: We’re devoid of human contact.

GS: It’s true. Sometimes I talk to people at bus stops, just to feel alive. 

PD: The postman can’t figure me out. 

GS: Let’s talk about something else. What books are you reading at the moment? 

PD: I’m reading The Upgrade by Paul Carr, Anger Management by Giles Coren andMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. 

And I feel like I’m always reading The Saturday Times and Sunday Times, they last me all week. 

GS: Ok. Hmmm. Paul Carr. I remember Paul. He set up The Friday Project, who published my book. He also brought down The Friday Project, although he did have some help with that. 

PD: He signed my breasts recently. I love his writing. 

GS: I think he’s very good at being Paul Carr. I quite like him but I wouldn’t work with him again. He gets things done, but he leaves a lot of corpses behind. 

PD: Is it bad to love Giles Coren? Because I do love his wordmanship.

GS: No. I never know what to think of Giles Coren. On one hand I think he’s a smarmy, smug journo who only got the job because of his dad. On the other hand, I think he writes well, is provocative and doesn’t take himself too seriously. I think I’m a better writer than him, but that’s based on ego not evidence. 

PD: I adore him. And Victoria. I fucking love The Times full stop. Is that weird? I’m a bit paranoid that I love it too much. 

GS: No. Not at all, before it went behind the Paywall, I would read The Guardian and The Times online in an attempt to get a reasonably balanced view. I couldn’t exclusively read either of them. The Times offers a very comforting vision of a forgotten England, but it feels a bit detached. And right-wing. 

PD: Is Caitlin (Moran) a friend of yours? 

GS: Not really. We both used to post on Popbitch many years ago, and I’ve met her once or twice in the pub but that’s it. I think she’s a really good writer. I like her sense of humour and how irreverent she is. And the fact that she does it in The Times, so she’s not playing to her natural audience. 

PD: Yes I love her. I love them all. 

GS: I was about to write a long thing about ME and the media and then remembered that this is about you, not me. 

PD: Hah. Yes, it’s me today. 

GS: Do you have any secret plans to conquer the world through TV, etc? 

PD: Not through TV…well, maybe TV, but those aren’t what the plans are. I am building a new site and app and they are my focus for the next couple of years. They’ll be launched in July (I hope). And I would like to finish writing a children’s book that I have started. 

GS: Hooray. Do you have any final plugs or statements you want to make? 

PD: Please visit http://wiwt.com/ and tell your friends and email me if we can collaborate in any way and please help me meet Dustin Hoffman. Thank you x 

GS: Thank you.