Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Car thieves and thugs: caught on camera - Wed 30 July

Episode 3 tx card. Cut out and keep.
I think the first two episodes of this series have been pretty good, but this one is the best so far. The opening sequence is fairly intense and it goes on from there. Please watch it if you can, either as it goes out on Wed 30 July at 9pm on Channel 5, or on catch up.

Here's a gallery of the delights awaiting you:

Now, come on, someone's bound to get hurt.
Again, inadvisable.
Airborne thermal imaging camera 
Argument with a lampost
Oh dear.
The series is taking a break for the summer, but there are at least another five episodes coming your way in the autumn.


Monday, 28 July 2014

Top Ten Albums: Henry's Dream

You lookin' at me?
Nick Cave is a cussed chap. There’s a film about him coming out next month which promises to be as close to its subject as Frank was to Chris Sievey, and all the better for it.
I think Henry’s Dream is Nick Cave’s best album. He, apparently, can’t stand it. Something to do with a falling out with the producer.

I was always wary of Nick Cave. There he was, at the JHQ Rheindahlen RAF record library, staring out at me from the cover of Your Funeral, My Trial and Kicking Against the Pricks, looking like he was perfectly willing to put a stack-heeled boot into my white, flabby belly for having the temerity to like, or perhaps, not like his music.

No, it said. Steer well clear. I did, until I read a review of Tender Prey, the album which supposedly announced his arrival as a major artist. Melody Maker, my bible, said it was beyond good, so I bought it. Then I bought his next album The Good Son, a blessed relief after the intensity of Tender Prey. Then came Henry’s Dream.

I wasn’t waiting on the release date of a new Nick Cave new album, but I knew something was due, and when I walked into the Andover Our Price to see a 12” single adorned with a live shot of that unmistakable mullet I was delighted. It was called I had a Dream, Joe“I hope this is good”, I remember thinking, “I really hope this is good”.

It is. For any song to have the chance of becoming a classic, the music has to be right. Only when the setting is approaching brilliance do we start to pick apart the words, to see if the artist actually has anything to say. Terrible lyrics won’t necessarily limit the progress of a song, but good ones can help elevate it to a different level.

As a lyricist Nick Cave is in the same class as Shane MacGowan, Paul Simon and Alex Turner. He’s built a career mining a rich seam of violent, bible-belt gothic, and on this song everything comes together.

The title sets out the conceit - we are going to hear an interpretation of Mary’s first words to Joseph on waking from her dream of immaculate conception. The idea is arresting enough, but when filtered through Cave’s knack for disorientating horror, it becomes something new entirely. These are the opening lines:

I had a Dream, Joe - you were standing 
In the middle of an open road.
I had a Dream, Joe - your hands were raised up to the sky 
And your mouth was covered in foam.
I had a Dream, Joe - a shadowy Jesus, 
He flitted from a-tree to tree.
I had a Dream, Joe - a society of whores 
Stuck needles in an image of me.
I had a Dream, Joe - it was autumn-time
And thickly fell the leaves.
And in that Dream, Joe, a pimp in a seersucker suit
Sucked a toothpick, and pointed his finger at me!

Now, that’s the way to start a song. The open road, the mad raving, the unnerving presence of a witch-like Christ and the dramatic gesture at the climax all combine to paint a lurid scar across your imagination. Echoes of Martin Luther King in the phrasing, too. This is not your average pop record.

As soon as I could, I got my hands on the album.

The cover of Henry's Dream is a painting of an orange-red sky behind a billboard. The billboard features the album’s title and an image of Mr Cave in mid-West preacher get-up. He wears his thumbs on his lapels and a brooding expression. 
The picture transports you to a fictionalised version of America's dustbowl. You are drifting into someone else’s mental landscape, looking up at a sign which can be read as as a statement of authority and a warning.

The journey begins with Papa Won’t Leave You Henry - sample lyric:

I entered through, the curtain hissed
Into the house with its blood-red bowels
Where wet-lipped women with greasy fists
Crawled the ceilings and the walls

and ends with Jack the Ripper - sample lyric:

I got a woman - she strikes me down with a fist of lead
I got a woman - she strikes me down with a fist of lead
We bed in a bucket of butcher's knives
I awake with a hatchet hanging over my head

in between we get love-in-the-time-of-the-apocalypse courtesy of Straight to You - sample lyric:

Gone are the days of rainbows
Gone are the nights of swinging from the stars
For the sea will swallow up the mountains
And the sky will throw thunderbolts and sparks
Straight at you, but I'll come a-running
Straight to you, but I'll come a-running
One more time...

an outsider love story - The Loom of the Land - sample lyric:

It was the dirty end of winter
Along the loom of the land
And I walked with sweet Sally
Hand upon hand
And the wind it bit bitter 
For a boy of no means
With no shoes on his feet
And a knife in his jeans

the song of a self-pitying as yet un-caught murderer - When I First Came to Town - sample lyric:

Suspicion and dark murmurs surround me
Everywhere I go, they confound me
As though the blood on my hands is there
For every citizen, here to see

and the best drinking song ever - O Brother, My Cup is Empty - sample lyric:

I've been sliding down on rainbows
I've been swinging from the stars
Now this wretch in beggar's clothing
Bangs his cup across the bars
Look, this cup of mine is empty!
Seems I've misplaced my desires
Seems I'm sweeping up the ashes
Of all my former fires
So brother, be a brother
And fill this tiny cup of mine
And please, sir, make it whiskey
I have no head for wine

The only duff track is Christina the Astonishing, about a 12th Century saint, which is performed almost as plainsong.

The rest of the album is outstanding. It features an interchangeable cast of murderers, drunks and lowlifes - overlapping lyrical obsessions and imagery delivered with deranged passion. The Bad Seeds' sound around this time was described as an unholy racket. It is.

I cannot recommend this record highly enough. A shame the person who wrote it disagrees.


Other top ten albums added so far:

The Waterboys - This is the Sea

Floodland - Sisters of Mercy
Duran Duran - Rio

The rationale for doing this

Further rationale at the bottom of the This is the Sea entry.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Criminals Caught on Camera Series 2 is go

The first episode of the second series of Criminals: Caught on Camera went out last night. I'm thrilled to tell you it got a sizeable audience which has put the team (who've been working on it since the beginning of the year) in a very good mood.

If you missed it, it's up here on Demand 5, along with all the programmes from series one, which is nice.

If you'd rather just be put off ever buying a street vendor's hot dog ever again, have a watch of this:

If you'd just rather have a look at some screengrabs, fill your boots:

Favourite shot in the whole programme

Good lens flare

Bit post-watershed, this one

Well, exactly.

Friday night fun

Very unwise (see right of picture)
If you want to see the stories behind the images above, do give it a try on Demand 5.

Finally I've been told series one has been sold to New Zealand, Sweden, Poland, and Finland among other countries. And in NZ we have the evidence they're actually broadcasting it...

World domination is, admittedly, some way off, but it's a start.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Gangs and Guns: Caught on Camera - new series!

Hi there. 

Just to let you know the first show of the second series of Criminals: Caught on Camera will go out for the first time on Channel 5 at 9pm this Thursday 17 July - less than a week's time.

It's called Gangs and Guns: Caught on Camera and it's a one-off, focusing on London. The remainder of the series is in the process of being made. It's coming together slowly but surely, and the stuff I've seen so far has been excellent.

I was very proud of the first series and the ratings it got. I'm confident we've got the mix right for the second series. Fingers crossed, you'll like it.

I'll try to get some publicity and screenshots up on this blog when they've been approved, but in the mean time I would be most grateful if you could tell your friends, set your PVRs or even sit down to watch live on Thursday 17 July at 9pm on Channel 5. I will be.



Sunday, 22 June 2014

Time to put CCTV cameras in care homes

These three men were employed by the Shaw Healthcare group as carers at The Granary care home in Wraxall, Somerset.

Picture: BBC News
Between September 2012 and January 2013 they were filmed dishing out some seriously vile physical and verbal abuse to a 79 year old woman they were meant to be looking after.

Picture: BBC News
Gladys Wright had advanced dementia, and was only able to understand simple instructions. Watch the BBC News report and listen to Mrs Wright screaming in terror as the men pull her around and abuse her in her own bed.

Picture: BBC News
They were only caught because Mrs Wright's son had installed a covert camera in her room, for his own peace of mind. He had no inkling she was being badly treated. 

These men were not carers. One was a chef, more used to manhandling bits of meat. Who knows how many other residents they abused? Who knows how many other elderly people are being abused on a daily basis by poorly-trained, poorly-paid, temperamentally unsuitable care home staff? We don't.

On the face of it, The Granary was an excellent home - purpose-built, and relatively new. Gladys' son James said he wouldn't have taken his mother there if he wasn't convinced it was going to provide her with the care she needed. 

I am currently dealing with two people who are trying to get their allegations of abuse in two homes taken seriously. 

They have been documenting mysterious injuries, theft and negligence. Unfortunately, they don't have any footage, and therefore don't have any proof things are going wrong. The management know this, and can paint the complainants as troublemakers.

I have presented a series of programmes about the efficacy of using cctv to catch criminals. There is no doubt monitored and unmonitored cctv systems can be excellent evidence-gathering and crime-prevention tools. 

I have many qualms about the insidious and all-pervasive nature of cctv, its scope for misuse and how it's challenging our concepts of privacy with very little in the way of popular debate. 

I also agree that the best way to protect elderly and isolated people in residential care, is to recruit people for whom caring is a vocation, train them superbly, manage them effectively and pay them well. Alongside this, their work needs to be regularly scrutinised and audited. Whistleblowing should be encouraged, complaints should be dealt with quickly and properly, and any whiff of profiteering or corner-cutting should be punished severely.

But that is simply not happening across the industry, and it will not happen properly unless we, as a society, are prepared to spend more than we currently do on care for the elderly. That will take years.

In the meantime, people continue to be abused. How many other violent assaults are being carried out where the only safeguard is trust?

To fill in the gaps and strengthen the safety net, we need compulsory, effective, well-monitored and protected cctv systems in residential care homes. Arguments about protecting privacy are specious. The industry will hide behind them because they see cctv as a cost not a benefit.

A bank wouldn't trust an employee to go into its vaults unmonitored. Yet we are leaving unmotivated, poorly-paid and badly-trained care home staff alone with the most valuable thing this society has - human lives.


If you want to support the campaign to get cctv in care homes, like this facebook page (NB I am not responsible for any of its content).
If you are concerned there is abuse, neglect or failing standards at a care home near you, send me a tweet.

Thanks for reading.