Thursday, July 22, 2010

BP in 'clean-up' over fake photos

1. The altered photo
2. A close-up of one of the obvious photoshop jobs
3. The unaltered photo

JUST when BP's clean-up and containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico seemed hard enough, the oil tycoon is experiencing yet another unintended knock-on-effect of the crisis- controversy over photoshoped images on its main site.

AMERICAblog writer John Aravosis and his readers have spotted two fake images in the “Response in Pictures” section of the company’s site.

The first depicts BP's crisis command centre in Houston where efforts to cap the leak are monitored on big screens by three employees in a dark room.

But it is obvious on closer examination the photograph has been manipulated so that three of the ten screens display a cut and pasted image.

White spaces are visible around two of the men's badly cropped head and shoulders. Similarly, the images displayed on three of the screens are misaligned and reveal unnatural white and black gaps around the edge of each frame.

This poor photoshop job comes somewhat as a surprise considering BP's multi-million dollar TV commercials and newspaper advertisements about the spill.

To deepen the wound, Aravosis found that the meta information for the photo says it was created in June 2001 but the photo on BP's site is dated as 16th July 2010.

“I guess if you're doing fake crisis response, you might as well fake a photo of the crisis response centre,” Aravosis said.

According to the Washington Post, Scott Dean, a spokesman for BP, stressed that there was nothing sinister in the photo alteration and was happy to provide the original unaltered version (albeit of a much smaller resolution).

“Normally we only use Photoshop for the typical purposes of colour correction and cropping," he told the paper.

"In this case they [the photographers] copied and pasted three ROV screen images in the original photo over three screens that were not running video feeds at the time."

A second crisis response photo has also been noticeably manipulated to insert a fake screen behind BP employees.

For a cover-up so menial it is surprising BP bothered to alter the pictures in the first place.

Both photos have since been removed from the site and the photo section now displays fewer categories and images than it did before they were caught out.

“We've instructed our post-production team to refrain from doing this in the future,” Dean said.

While these alterations are of little material significance the incident has added to suspicions about BPs transparency in matters both big and small.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Whoopi drugged-up on The View

I love The View. It is great to see a group of informed women talking about everyday issues. I particularly support many of Elisabeth Hasselbeck's views. But letting Whoopi Goldberg host the live show a few hours after returning from Vienna still drugged-up? Really? Maybe she would have preferred a lie down while she recovered from the flight (we all know she absolutely hates flying).

Click here
to watch some excerpts from the show.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mother Teresa on abortion

We all love to jump on the bandwagon of praising an historic figure for their contribution to society. The media do it best. Headlines often draw modern day comparisons to Mandela, Mother Teresa, Gandhi and so on. It is easy to preserve the memory of a person by continually speaking of their greatest achievements. It is even easier to be picky about which achievements one chooses to illuminate. Mother Teresa was a wonderful woman; she helped the poor and suffering in countless developing nations. We often hear warm and fuzzy quotes thrown around like: "Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies" and "If you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love" or even the more religious: "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world". But if we respect and idolise the woman, surely her other less 'popular' views should be respected too?

Take Mother Teresa's strong stance against abortion, contraception and divorce. She publicly campaigned against the promotion of these choices and was highly criticised for what many thought was a "sentimentally moral cause". In 1994 she spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C to thousands gathered and particularly to the then US President, Bill Clinton.

This is what she said:
"I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child - a direct killing of the innocent child - murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love, and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even his life to love us. So the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love - that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. ... Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."
"Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted, and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child, and be loved by the child. From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortions. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents, and have grown up so full of love and joy!"
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."
There are many who are, to use the generic terms, 'pro-life' and many who are 'pro-choice'. As we all know, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But here is to hoping it is an educated one. Sometimes this may seem like a lot to ask as it is easier to point fingers and hide behind ignorance or outright arrogance.

Mother Teresa has garnered the admiration of so many people around the world for her good works, now, perhaps we could spend a few moments to read, consider and perhaps further research her more 'controversial' beliefs.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Paul the octopus strikes again

Paul predicted Germany would lose to Spain in last night's semi-final match, and they did.

Carles Puyol's header in the 73rd minute off a corner will see Spain in their first World Cup final after an impressive 1-0 win over Germany in Durban.

Paul now has a perfect record in the FIFA tournament, this year he correctly chose the winner in each of Germany's six matches.

I'm still not sure whether the octopus has magical powers, is very lucky or if there is some food-tampering going on, but the whole fiasco brings some light and fluffiness to the game.

Spain will play the Netherlands in the 2010 final on Sunday, the 11th of July.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: A Little Night Music, Opera Australia

I saw Opera Australia's production of A Little Night Music in Sydney tonight.

For now, here's a brief-ish review.

I'll begin by admitting the show isn't my favourite Sondheim piece. It is everything he's loved for though: a satirical yet sadly realistic depiction of the best but usually the worst of people.

But onto the actual production...

Since I was reasonably unfamiliar with the music a lot of the lyrics in the quicker, wordier songs were almost completely lost on me. The Quintet harmonised beautifully but their diction was lacking at times. Sigrid Thornton was underwhelming- she could hold a tune but it was obvious in Send in the Clowns that she capitalised on telling the story via acting and speak-singing rather than through the use of her singing voice- which was disappointing but not unsurprising.

Anthony Warlow was his usual charming self who makes minced meat of almost any melody (anyone who can make Sondheim sound like little work deserves some praise!). Lucy Maunder was a convincing Anne and Katrina Retallick as Charlotte Malcolm and her husband played by Ben Lewis provided the lighter moments with great comedic timing. Nancye Hayes' "Liasons" was engaging and gave audiences a much needed moment to reflect on the thematic content of the show up to that point.

The use of a revolving section of the stage was effective and appropriately symbolic- particularly during the waltz at the beginning of the first act. Fredrick and Carl-Magnus' car skit at the beginning of the second act was also particularly funny and well staged.

The standout of the night was Kate Maree Hoolihan's "The Miller's Son". Perfectly delivered: singing, acting, staging and all.

The Opera House's incredibly inflated prices were a turn off (particularly for a musical) but it's understandable that the big names of Warlow and Thornton would be enough to deliver decent houses. On Wednesday night the auditorium was almost completely full; a healthy sign that there are people out there willing to give Wicked a break (at least for one night).

Overall, a good production but nothing particularly hair-raising (other than Hoolihan's belting ballad as noted). The show is food for thought though, to be sure, and a must see for Sondheim fans. Who knows when it will next get a life in Australia.

Rating: 3/5

A Little Night Music
Opera Australia
Sydney Opera House
Until July 15th, 2010

Director Stuart Maunder
Conductor Andrew Greene
Set & Costume Designer Roger Kirk
Lighting Designer Trudy Dalgleish
Choreographer Elizabeth Hill
Sound Designer John O'Donnell

Desiree Armfeldt Sigrid Thornton
Fredrick Egerman Anthony Warlow
Mme Armfeldt Nancye Hayes
Charlotte Malcolm Katrina Retallick
Carl-Magnus Malcolm Ben Lewis
Anne Egerman Lucy Maunder
Henrik Egerman Matthew Robinson
Petra Kate Maree Hoolihan
Fredrika Erica Lovell
Frid Anthony Lawrence
Mrs Nordstrom Katherine Wiles
Mrs Segstrom Jane Parkin
Mrs Anderssen Jacqueline Dark
Mr Erlanson Kanen Breen
Mr Lindquist Byron Watson

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Some shameless self promotion...

When I am not writing, working or studying, I sing, dance and act. Hooray!

This is my performance of the song, "The Fire Within Me," from the beautiful musical, Little Women (lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, music by Jason Howland).

At this point in the musical, Jo March (the protagonist) is grieving the death of her sister (Beth) and is trying to figure out what to make of her life and decide where to go from here.