Tag Archives: culture

Should The BBC Play “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”?

So, yes, it is cruelly amusing that Margaret Thatcher’s death has caused the song “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead” to shoot up the UK charts as people express their still-passionate dislike of her policies and her effect on Britain in the 1980s and beyond.

But also yes, I think the BBC is right to decline to play the song on the chart show.

It’s a matter of taste.

While I’m all for the Internet and self-expression and self-publishing and all that, I find myself applauding the venerable old institution for clinging to its role as arbiter of taste and keeper of the culture. There are some things that are tasteless. This is one. I’m happy that the BBC, like a fine old-fashioned gent, is quietly frowning and staying in its seat and saying “You dance if you must but no, no, I’m afraid I don’t approve and shan’t be joining you. Terribly sorry to be a stick in the mud, old fellow, but there it is.” The lady had children who are, no matter how you feel about their actions, people too. How we treat other people is a reflection on the state of our own souls, not theirs. And gleefully celebrating any death is just cruel, disturbing and unkind to a family in distress.

The BBC’s actions makes me feel like something is right with the world.

(And before anyone screams about government censorship, the Beeb runs on a government charter, yes, but it’s run to by an independent board).

So Bravo BBC.

On The Other Hand

I also read that some, perhaps more right-wing sources, were up in arms after Thatcher died, because they felt ‘one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.’


She was a public figure and the media profiles of her life absolutely had to include commentary from people who were willing to speak ill of her. They are not doing it out of thoughtlessness for her family’s feelings. They are assessing her public work, her actions, not celebrating the fact that her family is now in mourning. And they have an obligation to do so.

The obituaries and media profiles after a public figure dies become part of the historical record and part of the judgement that history begins to write of that person. Without a truthful assessment of a public figure’s life in these moments, we end up with hagiography not history. By whitewashing their legacy all we do is fail our society and its future, by failing to learn from what is past.  If we only allow a public figure’s supporters to talk about them in this moment, we silence the opposition and we deny the suffering of the thousands who feel they were personally harmed by that person’s actions.

Just look at the divisions in US society caused by historians’ efforts to finally tear the halos off the Founding Fathers and look at them warts and all. It is “a liberal conspiracy”, it is “a war on America”, it is “unpatriotic”. Really? It’s unpatriotic to search for the facts about the men who founded the country? It’s a war on America to try to see them as humans rather than heroes, and from there try to figure out what shaped their opinions and actions and thereby interpret them more accurately? It’s a liberal conspiracy to seek to acknowledge the suffering of millions and millions of poor and enslaved people whose voices are largely unheeded, and to examine the contradiction that some of these collosi of US history were also slave owners? Because, to me, that’s history. That’s a search for the truth. That’s the only way we can ever learn and improve and make things better.

Don’t Burn Flags And Dance In The Streets

So yes, I’m a bad person: I laughed when I heard that “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” was rising in the charts. It’s part of the black humor which makes Brits make jokes about tragedy. We ALWAYS take it too far (remember the space shuttle jokes that would not die?) and it seems some things never change.

But no, I don’t think we should be burning flags and dancing in the street, celebrating the way that disgusted us when we saw TV coverage of people doing the same on September 11, 2001.

And yes, I do think we need to take an honest, unvarnished look at every public figure’s life, when they die. Say what you like about her (and I’m certainly no fan) but I do think Margaret Thatcher would have been the first to agree that she should be judged on her actions, not on the sentimental reminiscences of her fluttering fanboys.

Which Creative Challenge Is Best For You?

"My Writing Life" by Olivander

My Writing Life By Olivander

Creative Challenges are great for shaking up the routine, forcing you to be creative every day or every week, and flexing those imagination muscles.

What is a creative challenge?

National Novel Writer’s Month is probably the most ambitious and famous creative challenge: write a novel in a month (November). The idea is to challenge yourself to create something and to silence the inner critic by putting a time-limit on the project. NaNoWriMo is fantastically popular for such an ambitious project (some authors have even turned their ‘crappy first drafts’ into published novels). But extreme novel-writing isn’t for everyone.

Other creative challenge stipulate that you create every day for a year, or on a certain day of the week or the month. Maybe you share it, maybe it’s private. It might involve public accountability (posting online) or it could work on the honour system. Sometimes there are forums, sometimes events, and sometimes it’s just something you commit to.

Tips for Taking Part

  • Decide on your own version of the rules before you start – if you miss a day of a monthly challenge, can you forgive yourself? Do you have to make it up? Do you quit?
  • Revise your rules as you go along – these challenges are meant to help you foster creativity, not become a chore. If, half way through, you realise it’s not working, or you’ve already got what you need, you can change your rules or drop out. If you need to be more strict, make more strict rules.
  • Do connect with other people taking part – they can inspire you, keep you honest, and cure some of the isolation artists often feel
  • Don’t get sucked into too much online chatter – the point of this creative challenge is to free you to create more, not find another place you can waste time
  • Make it a priority – most of these challenges take commitment for a small amount of time. (NaNoWriMo takes up a lot of time but only for a month. Project 365 commits you to a daily creative act for a year, but it can be as little as a few seconds a day.) Make the most of the challenge by making it a priority. You might have to drop something else during the challenge. (That’s why it’s called a challenge). If you have to skip your daily Simpsons rerun to free up half and hour for creativity, is that too high a price?

Here are a few creative challenges, but please comment with details of others you have heard about.

For Writers

100 Drabbles of Summer

Hosted in a livejournal community, this is a group of writers who are aiming for 100×100 words stories this summer. Yes, each! Even if you miss the official start, I’m sure you can join in late.

Poem A Day (April)

Hosted by Writer’s Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer. Every day Brewer posts a prompt at his site. Poets post their poetic response in the comments. Fascinating reading, even if you aren’t a poet.

StoryADay in May

Hosted by yours truly, this turned into a wonderful community of writers who helped each other through the Herculean task of writing A Story A Day. It’ll be an annual event, so sign up now for the newsletter!

100 Words.net

One of my first and favourite creative challenge sites. Write 100 words a day for a month. No more, no less. It is surprisingly challenging, doesn’t take up great wodges of time, and still keeps you on the look out for inspiration every day.

National Novel Writing Month

The big daddy of writing challenges: write a 50,000 words novel in November. Why November? Because the originators thought it was a good idea to do this in a month with a long weekend built in. (I might have voted for one with a holiday that didn’t have lots of social obligations – Memorial Day, perhaps, or President’s Day – but I guess they were young and unmarried at the time).

NaBloPoMo – National Blog Posting Month

Like NaNoWriMo, this challenges writers. This time it’s a blog post a day. You can join the network at ning.com or just post in your own blog. Each month has a theme and you can email the creator to be added to each month’s blog roll. I found some good blog friends by browsing the blogroll one month.

Script Frenzy

Write 100 pages of scripted material during April. This one has sponsors and prizes.

Writers’ Weekly Quarterly 24 hr Short Story Contest

Write a short story on a given topic in 24 hrs. This contest has a $5 (US) entry fee and takes place every quarter. First prize is $300. Limited to 500 participants and it usually fills up. The next one is April 24, 2010.

For Visual Artists

Illustration Friday

This was probably the first creative challenge I was aware of online, and I’d guess it has been running for at least a decade. They provide a weekly word/theme, you illustrate and send them a thumbnail and a link to your illustration. There are forums and interviews and lots of great art to look at.

Project 365

Take a picture every day. Photography site Photojojo has this article to help.

A Photo A Day

This one is actually a mailing list and a blog, with a picture chosen by the editors every day, but you can submit yours and keep your fingers crossed.

Art Every Day

Inspired by NaNoWriMo, Leah Piken Kolidas decided to declare November Art Every Day month for artists. She has a nice Rules (That Were Made To Be Broken) section, which appeals to me. Join her!

For Musicians

The RPM Challenge -Record an album in 28 days, just because you can.

(Write and) record an album of original music in February. 10 tracks or 35 minutes of music. The creators say (and I agree) “Don’t wait for inspiration – taking action puts you in a position to get inspired… February will come and go whether you’ve joined in or not, but do you really want to be left out? ”

General Creativity

The “Create Every Day” Challenge

Choose your creative outlet, use (or ignore) the monthly theme, browse the work of other participants, listed in the sidebar. From the site: “This is a low pressure challenge, with the idea of bringing more creativity into our lives. I will not be the creativity police. I hope that we can all find ways, simple and grand to express our creative selves. Have fun with it!”