Current Affairs

Referendum: some further links

Some other pieces I've found valuable, most of which have appeared since my last post.

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Referendum 2016

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Here are seven recent articles, from across the political spectrum, which stand out for their clarity and honesty. They're not batshit.

Out of touch

We’ve been away and without connectivity for much of the last week. And what a week to choose. This summer will live in memory for its news and events. Some days, the real world is more like theatre than theatre is.

Through tools such as Reeder, and the many eyes and ears of Twitter, we just about kept abreast, snatching 3G, EDGE or feeble GPRS where location permitted, and quickly learning where towns and villages could give us WiFi. (A shout-out here for the excellent Toucan Café in Minehead, its good food and free wireless.)

Back home, I’ve caught up in detail on the accumulated reading. I wish it had been less dispiriting. It’s come to something when, as Euan said, Russell Brand is more credible than the Prime Minister.

Some of what I’ve been reading about the unrest in England, on Pinboard.

Wikileaks in 10

I like this mind-map by John Naughton very much and used it recently in an English class when we got talking about some tools and techniques that help us think. It comes from his post, WikiLeaks: two challenges for journalism:

… how to make sense of all this. Most people cope with this problem by, effectively, reducing its variety.

Early last Monday, I gave a 10 minute talk about Wikileaks to our top two years (12 & 13). I hope I managed to keep some of the variety. The way in, stepping stones and some points made:

To end on, to take us away from focusing just on Wikileaks, something about the big picture right now — Paul Mason’s piece which has resonated with so many (and with so many undergraduates and recent graduates I know), Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere:

… the graduate with no future … with access to social media … [which] kills vertical hierarchies spontaneously … They all seem to know each other: not only is the network more powerful than the hierarchy - but the ad-hoc network has become easier to form. … if lawyers, teachers and doctors are sitting in their garrets freezing and starving you get revolution. Now, in their garrets, they have a laptop and broadband connection. … People just know more than they used to. … People have a better understanding of power. … Technology has - in many ways, from the contraceptive pill to the iPod, the blog and the CCTV camera - expanded the space and power of the individual.


I gave the talk again mid-week to our Year 10, boiled down and in something more like 6 minutes.

Here are a couple of other pieces which I’ve found good food for thought, neither of which I had time to work in to these talks:

Bill Keller in the NYT (January, 2011):

I’m a little puzzled by the complaint that most of the embassy traffic we disclosed did not profoundly change our understanding of how the world works. Ninety-nine percent of what we read or hear on the news does not profoundly change our understanding of how the world works. News mostly advances by inches and feet, not in great leaps. The value of these documents — and I believe they have immense value — is not that they expose some deep, unsuspected perfidy in high places or that they upend your whole view of the world. For those who pay close attention to foreign policy, these documents provide texture, nuance and drama. They deepen and correct your understanding of how things unfold; they raise or lower your estimation of world leaders. For those who do not follow these subjects as closely, the stories are an opportunity to learn more. If a project like this makes readers pay attention, think harder, understand more clearly what is being done in their name, then we have performed a public service. And that does not count the impact of these revelations on the people most touched by them. WikiLeaks cables in which American diplomats recount the extravagant corruption of Tunisia’s rulers helped fuel a popular uprising that has overthrown the government.

Also from the same:

The government surely cheapens secrecy by deploying it so promiscuously. According to the Pentagon, about 500,000 people have clearance to use the database from which the secret cables were pilfered. Weighing in on the WikiLeaks controversy in The Guardian, Max Frankel remarked that secrets shared with such a legion of “cleared” officials, including low-level army clerks, “are not secret.” Governments, he wrote, “must decide that the random rubber-stamping of millions of papers and computer files each year does not a security system make.”

And this from John Naughton (to whom we owe a lot for his pondering of these recent events) :

For hardcore geeks, the WikiLeaks saga should serve as a stimulant to a new wave of innovation which will lead to a new generation of distributed, secure technologies (like the TOR networking system used by WikiLeaks) which will enable people to support movements and campaigns that are deemed subversive by authoritarian powers. A really good example of this kind of technological innovation was provided last week by Google engineers, who in a few days built a system that enabled protesters in Egypt to send tweets even though the internet in their country had been shut down. “Like many people”, they blogged, “we’ve been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we can do to help people on the ground. Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service – the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection.”

They worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter and SayNow (a company Google recently acquired) to build the system. It provides three international phone numbers and anyone can tweet by leaving a voicemail. The tweets appear on

What’s exciting about this kind of development is that it harnesses the same kind of irrepressible, irreverent, geeky originality that characterised the early years of the internet, before the web arrived and big corporations started to get a grip on it. Events in Egypt make one realise how badly this kind of innovation is needed.

Tilt into the future

So many reasons to be gloomy as we slide into 2009, but I’m with Eno in refusing to go down that route. I’m buoyed up by what so many friends are doing, by the inspiration students give me and by my 92 year-old mother getting up in the night to watch the US election results (“after the 60s and the civil unrest, I just had to see this through”).

Democratic Presidential Nominee, Barack Obama and his family on election night in Chicago, IL on Wednesday, November 5, 2008. (David Katz/Obama for America)
Flickr, Creative Commons licensed, Barack Obama

Barack Obama with his family on election night in Chicago, IL on Wednesday, November 5, 2008L
David Katz/Obama for America (Flickr)

I first came across Obama in 2005 and quoted him that summer in a farewell speech I gave for a close friend (alter ipse amicus) as he stood down from his pastoral post in a boarding school. I think the Economist had reported on a speech to graduating students that Obama had made that June, where he had invited them to ask of themselves, "What will be my place in history?":

In other eras, across distant lands, this is a question that could be answered with relative ease and certainty. As a servant of Rome, you knew you would spend your life forced to build somebody else's Empire. As a peasant in 11th Century China, you knew that no matter how hard you worked, the local warlord might take everything you had - and that famine might come knocking on your door any day. As a subject of King George, you knew that your freedom to worship and speak and build your own life would be ultimately limited by the throne. And then, America happened. A place where destiny was not a destination, but a journey to be shared and shaped and remade by people who had the gall, the temerity to believe that, against all odds, they could form "a more perfect union" on this new frontier.

I quoted another bit (shorn it of its specifically American references), made right for the occasion because it expresses perfectly my friend’s own wise, kind and optimistic humanity (expended tirelessly in his work with the young):

Have we failed at times? Absolutely. Will you occasionally fail when you embark on your own … journey? Surely. But the test is not perfection. The true test … is whether we are able to recognize our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time.

Go and read this 2005 speech: it’s often fine (Obama and rhetoric!) and prescient, attuned to the challenges of technology and globalisation, to what an inter-connected world means — and to the significance of education. It is youthful and attentive to youth, inspired by hope and looking to the future:

So let's dream. Instead of doing nothing or simply defending 20th century solutions, let's imagine what we can do to give every American a fighting chance in the 21st century.

Back in March of last year, Marc Andreessen wrote about Obama (“We asked him directly, how concerned should we be that you haven't had meaningful experience as an executive -- as a manager and leader of people? He said, watch how I run my campaign -- you'll see my leadership skills in action.”):

It's very clear when interacting with Senator Obama that he's totally focused on the world as it has existed since after the 1960's -- as am I, and as is practically everyone I know who's younger than 50.

Well, Palin and the plumber are just a memory and we’ll soon be seeing how it goes. My 01.20.09 t-shirts now have a whole new life ahead of them.

(My non-Obama take-away from last year’s campaign: “People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power” — Bill Clinton.)

As Warren Ellis wrote in another context:

Tilt into the future. Or get the eternal past you deserve.

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Voting Conservative?

As a rider to my last post, I've just read and enjoyed Andrew Rawnsley writing in today's Observer:

It has been one of David Cameron's best insights about the Conservative party that it is not going to be more attractive to 21st-century Britain until it starts to look more like 21st-century Britain. He is a middle-aged, white old Etonian. He wants and needs a Tory party that looks and sounds a lot less like him.

George Osborne celebrated the growth of websites and online political networks originating from Conservative quarters. Rawnsley, commenting on the sacking of Patrick Mercer:

In the wake of the sacking, I've cruised around a few Conservative blogs. It's dirty work, but someone has got to do it on your behalf. There's a lot of Tory fury that Colonel Mercer was taken out and shot. Opinion is running heavily in sympathy with the MP for Newark and strongly against David Cameron, who is accused of sacrificing 'a good man' to the forces of 'political correctness gone mad', to quote one of the less rabid contributions in the right-wing blogosphere. This illustrates what the Tory leader is up against. Large chunks of his party cannot grasp either the reasons of principle or the imperatives of politics that meant Patrick Mercer had to be removed from the Tory front bench.

And I don't think there's much to add to this:

Is he [Patrick Mercer] a racist? He says not. His colleagues say not. More significantly, some black soldiers who served with Colonel Mercer say they don't regard him as a racist either. What we can say for definite is that he is an industrial-grade idiot. He was plain wrong to suggest that black soldiers should put up with being racially abused as par for the course in the army. He sounded just ludicrous when he claimed that soldiers with red hair were more likely to suffer from abuse than members of ethnic minorities. He displayed fully saturated stupidity by suggesting there's no difference between being called a 'ginger bastard' and being called a 'black bastard'. There are no known organisations dedicated to inciting hatred against people with red hair.

George Osborne clearly gets the digital age. About the Mercer affair, Rawnsley concludes that 'David Cameron gets it. His problem is that many in his party still don't get it at all.' Two people an electable political party do not make.


A lot for the Democrats to do now, but, for the moment, relief:

This was a resounding and emphatic rejection of the core, defining premises of the so-called "conservative" movement and what has morphed into the grotesque Republican Party. Nobody doubts that Americans vigorously rejected George Bush and his signature policy -- the invasion of Iraq. But it wasn't only Bush and Iraq.

Democratic candidates won -- in every part of the country and regardless of their ideology -- by committing themselves to one basic platform. They vigorously opposed what have become the defining attributes of the Republican Party and they pledged to put a stop to them: unchecked Presidential power, mindless warmongering, a refusal to accept or acknowledge realities (both in Iraq and generally), and the deep-seated, fundamental corruption fueling the Bush movement and sustaining their power.

Virtually every Democratic winner, from the most conservative to the most liberal, in the reddest and bluest states, have that in common. They all ran on a platform of putting a stop to the radicalism, deceit and corruption that drives the so-called "conservative" political movement.

… yesterday's results should galvanize everyone who recognizes the danger this country has been placed in by the radical, hate-mongering, deeply corrupt authoritarians who have been controlling (and destroying) it. That movement has been severely wounded, but not yet killed. Glenn Greenwald (Unclaimed Territory)


I was beginning to wonder if America had the ability to see. I don't now. I stayed up until 2pm eastern last night just to make sure. The american public has seen what's really going on and they have sent a message to washington.

Democrats + 27 (maybe more) in the House and take control
Democrats + 6 (I know VA is a recount) in the Senate and take control
Democrats +6 in statehouses and set the stage for 2008

But more importantly, we have a new kind of Democrat emerging. Jim Webb, former Secretary of the Navy. Claire McCaskill, tough pragmatic midwestern woman. Bob Casey and Joe Lieberman.

The Democrats are moving to the center, occupying the vacuum left by the disappearance of the moderate Republican. … america has woken up from it's tilt right. We are back in centerville. Thank God. Fred Wilson (A VC)

Today, Truth!

Today, we hold our annual upper sixth (year 13) conference, something we run jointly with St Helen & St Katharine. (For those outside the UK, upper sixth = secondary school leavers/18 year-olds.)

I've enjoyed my involvement with these conferences, brief though it's been, and recall the others with pleasure:

  • 2004: 'at the school I teach at, we are preparing for a sixth form conference on 'IT and the challenge of change'. Speakers include Cory Doctorow and Jyri Engeström. Cory will be talking about DRM and, in the run-up to this event, I have begun chatting with Colin Greenwood (Radiohead), getting the views of an artist, someone without whom there would be no music to share in the first place.'

Colin, Jyri and Cory gave memorable talks, and there was a great "panel" session with Cory sitting alongside Colin, fielding questions from some very engaged students. Jyri's talk, much admired on the day, is online here.

  • 2005: 'Today, we hold our annual conference for our school leavers and this year the theme is 'Making a Difference: changing the world'. I am delighted that we will be welcoming to speak Sir Thomas Shebbeare, James Mawdsley and Julian Filochowski: respectively, they will be addressing — How to Make a Difference, Global Democracy and Justice, Global Poverty Issues.' (More about each speaker on my original blog post.)

James Mawdsley and Julian Filochowski made a great impact, comparable only to that of Clive Stafford Smith (Wikipedia) when he spoke here last November.

And today? Truth …

  • Truth in Politics: Ann Widdecombe, MP — Wikipedia, own website
  • Truth and Satire: Craig Brown, satirist — Wikipedia
  • Truth, Diplomacy and The War on Terror: Craig Murray, formerly our Ambassador to Uzbekistan — Wikipedia, own website
  • Truth and Activism: Laurie Pycroft & Tom Holder of Pro-Test

My colleague, Jim Summerly, a historian, will talk about 'Truth and History' (official histories and propaganda vs what's really going on — from Stalinist Russia to contemporary, democratic regimes). Now, if all that doesn't get the hall a-buzzing …

I particularly enjoyed establishing that Laurie could join us: he had to get out of school for the day. That's humbling. What were we each doing, aged 16?

From the horse's mouth: Google's Global Counsel

Busy week last week, culminating with a trip to Brixton Academy on the Thursday to hear Pete Doherty and Babyshambles. There is musicianship and lyrical skill in there (I'm convinced of it! Some of my friends who are musicians are … less certain, shall we say), but this populist, narcissistic evening obscured most of that. (I found myself thinking how strangely reminiscent of Blair he is: needing to be loved, yet coming over so much of the time as considering himself … special.) We move on.

Friday afternoon and a quick trip to the where Andrew McLaughlin, Google's worldwide policy counsel, was speaking on :

Andrew McLaughlin is Head of Global Public Policy for Google Inc. Central policy issues for Google include privacy and data protection, censorship and content regulation, intellectual property (including copyright, patent, and trademark), communications and media policy, antitrust/competition, and the regulation of Internet networks and technologies. The leading countries for Google's government affairs activities include the US, Canada, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, China, India, Australia, Russia, Germany, France, the UK, Israel, Egypt, and Ireland. Andrew co-leads Google's Africa Strategy Group.

Now that was a well-spent hour+. Some notes: 

Google faces a number of challenges: 

  1. Censorship: repressive regimes are what one immediately thinks of here and of these China is the only one to which Google has made any accommodation. User-generated content is highly sensitive to the powers-that-be in Saudi Arabia, China, Iran … (So that's blogs, then.) Less obvious forms of censorship include interpretations of what "has to go" because of concerns about child protection and issues to do with cultural protection. Pay close attention to the EC Audio-Visual Services Directive (formerly, ) — an effort to create content control — and the Online Content Directive (I think I got this down right, but I can't find anything about it online). 
  2. Copyright: without Fair Use rights, Google would not exist. Copyright must be revised so as to seek a better balance between the rights of creators (to whose benefit copyright law is currently skewed) and the rights of users. Andrew showed three videos which, in different ways, re-mix copyright material: , and . (BSB was, he said, a huge phenomenon in China.) Currently, no meaningful Fair Use rights exist in Australia. 
  3. Discrimination by carriers: network neutrality; quality of service. 
  4. Security. For example, Google Earth maps the world and you can swoop in on … a Chinese nuclear facility. The UK's attitude is 'no security through obscurity', but China, Russia, India and others are not so happy. So far, Google hasn't blurred or blocked a single image at the request of a government. During the recent war in the Lebanon, there was no real time coverage of the action (within Google's technical ability to do) and served images are, on average and approximately, 18 months behind the present, except during national disasters when all the stops are pulled out and images are as current as possible. (This is all to avoid any unhelpful clash with governmental agencies and consequent, restrictive legislation.) Finally, out of concerns about privacy, image resolution will never go so low as to allow identification of individuals.

Google chooses not to geo-target users by ISP address and then use this to enforce a government's repressive/restrictive laws. So, users can go to to search for what Germany requires Google to block on Google Deutschland. (Yahoo! was forced to implement a ban in France on accessing , but this was in a specific case and established no generic principle.)

maintains a database of Cease and Desist orders.

Some positive things to celebrate or look forward to:

  1. : one day IM chat in two different languages will be possible. Saudi Arabia doesn't like the service (it was being used to translate English > English, generating an unblocked — new — URL in the process). 
  2. Cloud computing. 
  3. Ubiquitous connectivity: mobile telephony; spreading wireless access; increasing deployment of fiber connectivity. 
  4. Other specific initiatives: eg, , .

After the talk, I asked Andrew about Google Desktop and, specifically, : 'The latest version of Google Desktop provides a Search Across Computers feature. This feature will allow you to search your home computer from your work computer, for example'. (To access this option in Google Desktop Beta Preferences, right click on the Google Desktop icon in the system tray > Preferences > Google Account Features.) I wasn't surprised to hear that the take-up of this has been limited. Many of us seem to be happy-ish with our email residing on Google's servers, but putting our documents there seems to cross some kind of psychological barrier. I suspect that this will change over the next few years as we slide into using more tools that work both online and off, but users haven't taken to this just yet.

By the way, I note that : Microsoft and Google have joined forces with the British Library in calling on the government to radically overhaul the intellectual property (IP) law.

"The Google Generation"

The phrase Tony Blair used on Thursday in his conference speech is examined in today's Guardian:

"Google isn't actually something I associate with young people any more," says Andy Hobsbawm, the European chairman and co-founder of the digital marketing company - and son of the decidedly non-digital Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. "To me, it's part of the fabric of everyday living. It's too universal." By way of better signifying the youthful flash the PM was presumably after, Hobsbawm would recommend a quick dip into the discourse of marketing and advertising. "There are lots of different versions of the same concept," he explains. "It usually refers to the people for whom the internet and communications technology were in the world when they were born. A few years ago, somebody [Marc Prensky] wrote an article, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, about the people for whom the world had always been that way, as against the ones who had to adapt to it. Everything else is just versions of that."

The broadest label, he explains, is Generation Y - those "born between 1977 and 2001, or thereabouts". Those who have focused specifically on the impact of technology have also talked about the Internet Generation ("probably born from the late 80s onwards"), and the IM - as in instant messaging - Generation. Then, in recent years, there has been much talk about the MySpace Generation, and even the Mypod Generation, "which is meant to be a combination of MySpace and iPod, but I think that's probably getting a bit silly".

Running through all these terms is a loose set of common assumptions: first, that this generation is globally attuned, propelling all kinds of cultural product, from Japanese cartoons to American indie rock bands, around the planet at extraordinary speed. How they might digest particular aspects of the media defies the old rules. In the US, for instance, there has been a great fuss about the fact that Jon Stewart's Daily Show is the most popular news outlet among those between 18 and 25. And their habits of interacting with the new media means that, often by word of mouth, small-scale internet operations can suddenly flower into huge concerns. Just as Napster heralded the decline of the compact disc, now YouTube makes traditional TV look positively stone age.

Most significantly, though, given the traits Tony Blair implicitly ascribes to the Google Generation, today's under-25s turn out not to conform to their caricature as consumerist slaves to all things "aspirational", but to be much more complicated. "Young people are still defined by what they consume - it's still important to have the right badges - but I'm not sure that's about any display of purchasing power," says Hobsbawm. "It's more about knowledge: being up with what's cool and interesting, defining yourself by what you do than rather what you buy."

And there's this, which certainly squares with how my sons and my younger friends are experiencing things, here in the UK and in Europe:

… the prime minister seemed to imply, they are the lucky pioneers of life on demand. But in stark contrast to all this, another version of the Google Generation represents today's young people as the victims of a historical curse. Earlier this year, there was a great buzz in the US about a book entitled Generation Debt, written by a 24-year-old Yale graduate named Anya Kamenetz, and cheerily subtitled "Why now is a terrible time to be young".

"I was born into a broke generation," she wrote. "I look around and I see people who have borrowed more to go to college than they can repay, who can't find a good job, can't save, can't make solid plans. Their credit card bills mount every month, while their lives stall on the first uphill slope. Born into a century of unimaginable prosperity in the richest country in the world, those of us between 18 and 35 have somehow been cheated out of our inheritance."

In Britain, the picture seems little different. "Debt is the ever-present conversation among my friends," says a university student I spoke to. "When we talk about the future, it's always, 'Will we ever be able to afford a house? Will we be able to get a decent pension?' It's kind of simultaneously normal and quite shocking. And even when it's kept in the background, it's there with just about all the people I know."

According to a view crystallised in the title of a recent report by the centre-right thinktank Reform, the Google Generation might easily be rebranded as the Ipod generation - "Insecure, pressured, over-taxed and debt-ridden". "You would think this generation have never had it so good, to quote another prime minister," says Andrew Haldenby, Reform's director. "The opportunities for international travel, education, very liberated social mores - it's a great time to be young, you would think. But then you start to look at people's circumstances and talk to young people themselves, and they expect to have a difficult career and be in a difficult economic position well into their 30s. They're probably going to have a low disposable income, difficulty getting on the housing ladder and high levels of debt."

By 2010, he estimates, the average graduate will be paying half their income in tax, loan repayments and newly high pension contributions. The future Haldenby foresees is of a glaring disjunction between the supposed opportunities of a hi-tech society and the lack of cash to actually pursue them.

John Harris goes on to look at the way this B-side of life in the Google Generation is reflected in contemporary pop songs. He concludes:

Those who are seeking to snare the attention of a supposedly digital generation should take note: among these people, the idea that new technology is worthy of comment is almost pathetically old-fashioned. Once you've implied that using the web is remarkable, you've probably lost them.

Trying to be politically hip with technology is just embarrassing, but this of course doesn't mean that we should settle for taking technology for granted. Good teachers spend a great deal of their time reminding themselves and their students that the world (and more) is remarkable —'worthy of comment'.


Talking of getting used to technology, I've just read Maciej Ceglowski's fine posting in his blog, Idle Words, about flying over the North Pole. It's a beautiful and characteristically amusing piece, finishing with this:

Passing over the North Pole hardly helps make the experience less dreamlike. Such flights were a novelty even into the 1950's; it's only within the last twenty years that routine passenger service over the Arctic have become technically possible, but already people are able to pull down the window shades and calmly watch the DaVinci Code or even just sleep through the whole spectacle. It makes me wonder if there is anything we can do to help our world recover its former vastness.

Back in 2004 I noted briefly how experiences of awe and wonder in relation to the net seem to have the power to excite and stir us, and that these experiences are in turn very important to a certain contemporary experience of interiority. That was a link to something Matt Jones wrote (reachable now via the Wayback Machine, here), linking to a John Naughton piece: 'Beautiful essay by Michael Benson in The Atlantic which brilliantly captures the sense of awe and wonder about the Net that first prompted me to write my book'. (A year ago I was couching this sense of awe-about-the-net in terms of 'net as labyrinthine library' — not so happy with that image now.)

More generally, imaginative, intelligent use of net-based and other technology in schools is helping us recover a sense of the world's still-remaining-vastness, and of our responsibilities therein, even as we continue to shrink distances and, to our great shame, make a Dusseldorf of everywhere. Out of so many examples I could take … yesterday evening I caught the first of the BBC's new 3-part series, Galapagos:

… the three fifty minute programmes explore the history, landscape and wildlife on the tiny cluster of islands, composed almost exclusively of volcanic rock, scattered in the South Pacific Ocean 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador. It was here that Darwin found the perfect conditions to formulate his evolutionary theory: far from the ravages of the continents, life evolved into a miniature world of specialised creatures who adapted to their harsh environment in a variety of ways. Blending photo-real 3D graphics with high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery, the programme reveals new perspectives on the Galapagos islands, with footage of its volcano summits, lava flows and impossibly blue sky and sea. Galapagos brings to viewers pictures of an incredible mix of polar and tropical species; from penguins and fur seals to flamingos and tropical fish, including evolutionary wonders such as Darwin's finches, land and marine iguanas, giant tortoises, waved albatrosses and sea turtles in some of their last habitats on earth.

BBC Post Production Bristol is providing a high definition tape-less post production solution to support Galapagos , to deliver high quality uncompressed HD programmes, whilst maintaining a smooth sustainable workflow. The ingest, storage, editing, effects, grading and archive system is based around a 9TB Sledgehammer HDIO NAS from Maximum Throughput and includes Lustre® and Smoke® from Autodesk Media and Entertainment. Identical to the post production solution BBC Post Production designed for the BBC's new landmark HD series Planet Earth , it ensures the highest quality of content is preserved and delivers an efficient and cost effective workflow. The programmes are being shot on the Panasonic Varicam, with Super 16mm used to capture particularly high speed moments, such as frigatebirds hunting on the wing. The main underwater work is being captured with Sony 750 and 900 cameras. Thermal cameras are being used to reveal the basking tactics of marine iguanas, whilst infra red cameras record petrels nesting at night and a digital stills kit condenses the passage of time with clouds, shadows, tides, stars and sun.

Series Producer, Patrick Morris says: "Never before has a series like this been made about the Galapagos Islands and, as natural history film makers, this compelling story goes right to the very heart of all that we do. The high definition pictures are beautiful and the post production solution provided by BBC Post Production Bristol will ensure that the highest quality is retained."

It could have been just "another nature programme", but it was really quite arresting: I don't watch much TV and this kept me watching — the strangeness of it all and some of the underlying science was engagingly visualised. I hope the next two episodes go into the science rather more, but it's encouraging to see what I assume is cutting-edge technology (not all of paragraph two makes sense to me, by any means!) being deployed to more than "Wow" ends.